Students Opting For Trade School Over Four-Year Degree Programs

Jacob Golding is doing what he does best.

For the 18-year-old recent high school graduate, the recipe for success has revolved around one thing: Technical-school training for a career in electronics engineering.

"I have this built-up passion," Golding said. "It’s what I want to do."

The Independence, Mo., resident is multitasking this summer between handyman work and a restaurant job as he prepares to start classes in August in the business and technology program at Metropolitan Community College. After completing the two-year program, Golding hopes to land a job as a power-plant engineer or perhaps even work at NASA.

Golding joins many other students nationwide who are opting to pursue career paths in well-paying skilled trades and technical jobs, such as welding, plumbing, electrical or construction management work, rather than turning to traditional four-year college degree programs.

Despite the recession and high unemployment, several recent surveys indicate strong demand for skilled labor.

For example, a "talent shortage" survey by Manpower Inc. found the jobs that were hardest to fill included skilled and manual trades, technicians, drivers, laborers, machine operators and engineers.

Manpower said the results suggest a "mismatch between the type of individuals available for work and the specific skills that employers are looking for."

That’s why Golding is confident he’ll be able to turn his passion into a job. And with relatively low tuition at a community college, he expects to enter the work force "with no huge debt in my wallet."

Other than heavy labor, Golding said, he basically had "no clue" what he wanted to do with his life until he enrolled in high school vocational education classes two years ago.

His father, an experienced contractor, suggested his son focus on electronics. "I was going to take automotive classes," Golding said, "but in electronics there are always advances in technology. There’s always the next step to learn."

As part of his classroom commitments, Golding became active in SkillsUSA, a nonprofit organization that promotes vocational training and leadership for high school and post-secondary education students nationwide. The organization wrapped up its annual vocational competition June 26 in Kansas City.

Golding credits SkillsUSA with helping him develop his communications and leadership skills – and whet his appetite for learning new things.

Golding’s experience illustrates another key point – that parents need to allow their children to pursue a career they love, even if it’s not tied to a bachelor’s degree. Otherwise, I think we’re doing our children a disservice.

Indeed, Golding credits his parents for being advocates for his training.

"I’m the first Golding that gets to go to college," he said proudly. (McClatchy Newspapers)

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