By Christine Graf
As the skilled labor shortage reaches an all-time high, educators and trade professionals are working to eliminate the widespread perception that vocational training is not a viable career path for students of all academic levels.
While a four-year college degree costs an average of $127,000, a trade school degree averages just $33,000. Although college graduates earn an average of $16,900 more than those working in the skilled trades, the pay gap is shrinking as companies pay higher salaries to fill open positions in various trades.
Data provided by the U.S. Department of Education indicates that workers with trade school training are slightly more likely to be employed than those with academic credentials. They are also more likely to be working in their field of study and less likely to be burdened by crippling college debt. The amount of student debt in the U.S. has surpassed $1.73 billion.
According to Mike Martell, assistant business manager at IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) 236, students and their parents no longer believe that college is the only option.
“I think it was the case several years ago where high schools and counselors were really pushing people in the direction of college, but I think that has kind of turned the corner a little bit,” he said. “I believe that more people are realizing that a career in the trades makes sense because you aren’t accruing all sort of college debt. You don’t need to go to college and get a four-year degree in order to get a decent job. People are starting to realize that there is another way that is a viable alternative.”