Consider Trade School: Student Overview

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When most people think of trade school, they think of generic trades like plumbing, contracting, and welding. In reality, trade schools aren’t just the trades associated with system maintenance and construction. Called a vocational school by some, trade school is any careerfocused education that always puts practical skills first and focuses on training students to do exactly what their career will entail. That means that trade school includes various types of practical education that you don’t think of when you think of trades, such as becoming a chef, dental hygienist, or IT technician. 

The Skilled Labor Gap

  • The majority of positions in the trades are currently filled by people over age 45 and a large subset of those jobs are held by people over age 55. These workers tend to be men who belong to the baby boomer generation and are beginning to retire.
  • There are far more baby boomers retiring than young people entering the trades right now, which has resulted in high unemployment rates in the trades and more opportunities for young people willing to take them.
  • With the introduction of cheaper and more lenient community colleges and online colleges, fewer kids are being led toward the trades as a career path, despite the number of openings and the relatively high income for skilled labor positions.
  •  The point is that not everybody should go into the trades as they’re demanding and not for everyone. However, if you’re somebody that has just graduated high school and you’re not sure if college is right for you, then it’s worth doing some research into some local trade schools. There is a plethora of opportunities in trades and many leave their school with less debt than the average college student. Trade schools tend to be best for people who learn from doing things themselves and using their hands. 

Pros and Cons of Trade School

  • Pros: 
    • Flexible Scheduling including part time and online classes 
    • Students typically leave with less student debt than those who obtain a Bachelor’s degree 
    • There are plenty of job openings in the trades 
    • Hands-on learning 
    • Some of the fastest growing careers require a trade school education, like alternative energy technicians 
    • Often allows students to work and attend school at the same time 
    • Smaller classes 
    • Some trades have unions that protect the interests of tradesmen and students
  • Cons: 
    • Some trades can be physically demanding and hard to stay in for a long time 
    • Usually tradesmen try to obtain a supervisor position before the work starts to take a toll on them 
    • Job path isn’t as flexible as a college degree 
    • Limited choice of schools 
    • Some trades require you to pay union fees and attend union meetings consistently 

What the Path Looks Like

  • For trades like culinary arts and information technology, you would just attend trade school, take the final exam, and receive your certificate. You can then apply for jobs using the certificate as your qualification.
  • For the generic trades like plumbing and HVAC, there are three stages in the career:

    • Apprentice
      • Working as a novice beneath a journeyman or master
      • Learning on-the-job skills, both from doing them and watching the supervisor do them
      • Usually done simultaneously with trade school
      • The apprenticeship stage lasts a few years, usually the same length as trade school
      • Become a journeyman by finishing the program and passing your license exam
    • Journeyman
      • Work independently in the trade
      • Earn a higherwage
      • Able to teach classes and take apprentices
      • Become a master by spending two years as a journeyman and passing the mastery exam
    • Master Craftsman
      • Ability to work as a supervisor with more responsibilities
      • Much higher wages to reflect the knowledge and responsibilities they take on

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