For many people, the idea of education after high school is limited to one option: college. College is by far the most common choice for post-secondary education, and it has become a standard of society to have a degree.
But, what if college isn’t right for you?
There is another way to specialize and prepare for a long and fruitful career, trade school. Becoming a tradesman offers a great opportunity to live well and enjoy your work.
I spoke to James Enright, a retired machinist from General Motors, and James Nichols, a Freshmen at a vocational high school. They told me about their experiences with trades and also what they liked about their career choices.
James Enright began his education as a tradesman from a very early age when he performed simple jobs in the workshop in the cellar of his childhood home. Over time, he began to perform more sophisticated tasks, eventually apprenticing to learn the basics like safety, repetition, patience, and measurement.
After that, he worked his way up through trade school and into General Motors. “My favorite part of my job was using my own ability under pressure,” he told me. “I liked overcoming the challenges.” It is certainly true that trades are challenging, but with challenge comes the opportunity for expression.
Trades also teach valuable lessons.
“My trade taught me patience – you can’t get ahead of your brain. It’s good to see something you made to serve its purpose. You get a certain satisfaction. If you never feel that in life, you’re really missing something.”
He also emphasized the importance of loving what you do. “You should need to have someone tell you it’s time to leave every day. That’s how much you should enjoy your job.”
James Nichols is a Freshman from Delaware. His interest in trades was spurred by his upbringing – his father is a mechanic, and his grandfather is James Enright. From a very early age, Nichols was exposed to all manner of machinery and trades. Lately, he’s been placing a serious focus on electrical studies at his vocational high school, which covers every trade from cooking to carpentry. “My school offers things that most people wouldn’t consider trades. We have medical training and human service classes,” he said.
His favorite part of school so far has been checking out the various trades as a freshman. “Trade school is helpful if you do or don’t know what you want to do,” he told me. “It gives you a better chance of finding a job straight out of high school, which you can use to pay back secondary school or college.” That’s the thing that many people miss – tradesmen can work out of high school, and can continue on in trade school or pursue a degree in college, with supplementary funds from their trade. James is hoping to work in the electrical field after his education.
Like I mentioned above, “trades” are not limited to those who make things in shops. Professionals like stylists, nurse’s assistants, and even chefs all probably attended some form of a vocational school.
Janine MaGee is a professional stylist and the owner of JSK Salon. She reflects upon her experiences in trade school, saying, “I went to my high school vocational school. I started when I was 15 and in the tenth grade… [I] was licensed as a cosmetologist at age 17…” She continued, “I now own my own hair salon, going on eight years… I have many times thanked the teachers at my Vo-Tech school because they really became close to me and helped pave the way for my career.”
I also heard from Renee Solderitch, another cosmetologist who attended school with MaGee. She feels that her schooling better prepared her to enter the workforce.
“…I think I was far more prepared to enter the workforce,” she wrote. “How to fill out applications, write resumes, interviewing skills, public speaking, and even the funny little things like how to do formal place settings and which fork, spoon, etc. to use when at public dinners.”
For those who are now faced with the difficult choice of which career path to follow, it may be time to consider the option of attending trade school. Whether you see yourself through to tradesman status, or just use a high school license to help pay back college expenses, vocational schools offer an option for every student. To recap, here are the basic reasons why you should consider trade school:
- To find a career you love
- Trade school is an alternative to college
- To get the most from your investment in education
- To become eligible to work sooner
- To learn valuable life lessons
- To better prepare yourself to enter the workforce
- To make good money
Ultimately, it’s all about finding a career plan that you are passionate about. Because like James Enright said, you should be, “eager to come to work, and reluctant to leave.”