Doreen Di Polito: Options other than College

May 22, 2015 by


An Interview with Doreen Di Polito: Options other than College

Michael F. Shaughnessy

1) Doreen, first can you tell us about your education and work experience?

High school, 2-year AA degree and completion of the engineering program at Honeywell

2) There seems to be a lot of talk and discussion about the cost of higher education and defaulting on student loans. First of all, what are your thoughts on that?

A Bachelor’s degree costs an average of $127,000 in four years – that’s an enormous amount of money that students don’t necessarily have on hand. They reach for loans and receive a degree that doesn’t lead to an immediate job opportunity. This is how so many students fall into debt, and it’s adding up nationally. But not everyone is cut out for collegiate education, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

3) Rather than attend a four year college, what are the benefits of a trade school- for example, air conditioning, plumbing, carpentry, auto mechanics?

Some young high school grads would rather learn as they work. Many students simply aren’t suite to the intense theoretical studies of a traditional bachelor’s program and an affordable trade school education can prepare them for an interesting, well-paying career.

A trade school degree costs about $33,000 and can be completed in only two years. Not everyone should attend college. Some may work better in a trade environment because they enjoy working with their hands or are more creative.

4) Should the high schools be offering more of these types of courses?

Yes, absolutely, and not just in high school. We need to start educating young students in middle schools, high schools and colleges about these opportunities.

5) We hear a lot about kids with ADD and Learning Disabilities. How do these kids fare in vocational schools or community colleges with a vocational track?

Creative, hands-on learning helps students with ADD and these programs are well-suited for kids who would prefer different educational experiences.

6) In your mind, why is a vocational or technical school a better option for some individuals?

They can work and earn wages while they are learning a trade as opposed to studying and applying skills after completing a degree. Some kids are more creative and hands-on and would be an excellent fit for a trade school or vocational program.

7) How can guidance counselors, principals and teachers better supply students with vocational or even military options (since the military DOES often provide great training)?

We need principals, guidance counselors and teachers to be more educated on non-collegiate programs. If they are better informed, they can provide opportunities to students who are interested in other career paths.

8) This idea of “college for all” seems strange – who first promoted it, and were they not aware of the fact that we need carpenters, plumbers, electricians, nurses, auto mechanics, police, firemen,,,,and the list goes on.

I don’t know who first promoted it, but the college degree has become a symbol of success whereas trade/vocational programs have not been in the forefront of post-high school conversations. We DO need carpenters, plumbers, electricians, nurses, auto mechanics, police, firemen and construction workers. There are job opportunities for all these fields that need to be filled by skilled and trained workers.

9) It would seem that trade school programs fill a great niche – for students who have reading problems, attention problems, or simply poverty stricken individuals.

That is actually an incorrect label that trade schools face – you have to read and do a ton of math to complete these programs! That’s part of the problem with trade school image: it’s not just for disadvantaged students as you described.

10) Doreen, I monitor the want ads and it seems that there is a continual need for a wide variety of skilled workers. What is causing this DISCONNECT ( I capitalize here for emphasis, not that I am yelling )

What I described before is the disconnect – anyone can complete a trade school program and train to be a skilled worker. We have the WRONG voice on trades!

11) What have I neglected to ask?

How do we help make this work for our country? That is the key, unanswered question that we are facing right now. Part of the answer, in my opinion, is to reinstitute trade electives in middle and high schools. These give students an opportunity to test out their skills and grow an interest in classes like mechanics, woodshop and robotics.

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