Trade schools have seen a rise in enrollment over the last five years and their increasing popularity with high school graduates shows no signs of slowing down. From welding and metalworking to electronics and aviation, more students are opting to skip the college experience in favor of entering the workforce earlier with a trade. But what makes trade schools so suddenly popular? There are many reasons for the increased awareness of trade schools and what they have to offer besides a desire to earn a living without four years of college, and money is definitely one of them.
Prior to the 1970s, there was a substantially larger blue collar and manufacturing presence in the United States. Once the manufacturing base moved overseas, society leaned toward higher education as a method of avoiding the well documented problems of those who lost their jobs. Blue collar became something of a dirty word in society, and parents pushed their children toward more academic pursuits in the hopes of providing them with an education that would afford a better lifestyle. College was seen as the ticket to financial freedom and success.
Fast forward 20 years and the personnel required to maintain goods produced overseas are now hard to find. Earth moving equipment may be imported, but construction companies cant import people to maintain or run it. Pipes may arrive on an oceangoing vessel, but someone still has to weld them together once they arrive. Because of the mainstream push toward getting kids into college, there are fewer and fewer people working in the trade industries, making competition for qualified workers fierce and driving salaries up.
Auto mechanics are a perfect example. Most mechanic schools offer programs that last just under 2 years, yet a graduating mechanic with a ASE certification can easily find full time employment at a rate of $35 per hour. Compare that to a student who earns a psychology degree. The average entry level position for a psychology program graduate in New York City, one of the most expensive markets in the nation, pays around $30,000 annually. Thats 15 dollars an hour considering a 40 hour workweek and two weeks of paid vacation.
Another reason trade schools are appealing to students has to do with cost. Trade schools are, by and large, cheaper to attend than college. For those who wish to pay their own way, this can be of great benefit. Not all high school graduates are particularly enamored with the thought of large scale borrowing to earn a degree.
Of course, a student planning on a career in medicine isnt going to be swayed by the lure of getting a CDL license and cross country trucking, but for those students who arent sure of what to do with their future or are debating the merits of one of the many low paying bachelor degree options out there, trade schools offer another option.