More high school graduates turning to trade schools instead of college

(NBC) – High school graduations begin this week and, yet again, more graduates are opting for something other than college to begin their career paths.

If recent history holds, nearly the same number of high school graduates this year will head to a trade school instead of college. And for them, it’s for good reason.

Career coach Andy Thomas said, “You can make as much money as the quote, unquote white collar folks can in many cases in the trade area.” Make as much money, obtain a skill in much less time, at a fraction of the costs of college.

Erika Cline is an HVAC technician, Morris-Jenkins Heating & Air. She said, “I wish right out of high school I knew this was an opportunity, or a chance or a possibility.”

Instead, Erika Cline spent a bundle getting a bachelor’s degree in public health. She explained, “I felt I needed a career and the only way to get the career was to go to college.”

She eventually left that career and to learn the trade of heating and air conditioning. “And… I’m not going to lie. Money was an issue”

She’s with a company in Charlotte now where co-workers have also opted for a trade skill over a college degree.

HVAC technician Nikolai Watson-Grant said, “I just felt more confident in the way I was taught than even when I was in college.”

The trade school choice certainly resonates with those who made the decision decades ago.

Randy Tooker with Morris-Jenkins Heating & Air said, “It’s been awesome for me. I preach about it. I love this industry, I love the trades”

And especially now, with a new economy, and stigma, all but erased.

Andy Thomas said, “So plumbers, electricians, all of these skilled tradespeople, they’re critical!”

They’re also less likely to have the debt load of a college graduate.

Further food for thought: in the trade school versus college debate, research conducted by the Idaho Department of Labor found that the average bachelor’s degree in the United States costs $127,000. The average trade school degree costs $33,000.

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