Technical Training Giving Bachelor’s Programs A Run For Students’ Money

Jul 19, 2016 by

An increasing percentage of the American workforce is finding that a four-year degree isn’t necessarily the guarantee of career success that it once was. Newly-minted graduates with heavy debt loads and few job prospects are now seeing that other educational avenues might have proven not just faster, but also more valuable to their current and future financial situations.

Many computer-savvy teens set their sights on the obligatory bachelor’s in computer science as the path to their chosen career. But the fact is that many employers can take a worker with IT training alone and put them to work in a durable, in-demand job with high wages–and low cost. These workers can hit the job market in a matter of a few months, in certain cases, drastically reducing their educational expenses and getting them into satisfying work right away.

America’s secondary schools are responding. They are sending their graduates through commencement exercises with not just the requisite math, science, and English, but also with a head start–or even a completed course–in a variety of technical fields.

The trend follows closely with the expanding demand for workers in many technical fields, most of which do not require a four-year degree. The field continues to see an expansion of manufacturing jobs, in numbers that are all the more impressive due to the decreased supply of workers willing and able to take such employment.

This trend will never render the four-year degree obsolete, of course. Educators, medical practitioners, and many other white-collar workers will always be needed, and the nature of their work makes a bachelor’s degree necessary and useful.

And for the front-line assembly worker or the company’s IT staff, the door isn’t closed to extending their education. An employee who has landed in a lifelong career at age 19 or 20 may choose to refine or alter their career path some years down the road. Their new aspirations may include management, human resources, or supervision, and in order to achieve those goals, they may need to seek that four-year degree, or even a master’s.

Therein lies the appeal for many students. By completing a technical or vocational program during or shortly after high school, they have greater flexibility without the burden of feeling committed to a certain career path. If at some point they choose to change direction, they can do so.

From the other side of the equation, students who immediately enroll in college, especially those with no specific job plans in mind, may ultimately complete their degree saddled with debt and still unsure of their aspirations. Because of the commitments they have made with their money and time to that point, they may feel trapped in a certain field and may certainly lack the resources, time, energy, or interest to start over.

The only real barrier remaining for many students with vocational interests may be the social stigma. Peer pressure from contemporaries and from parents, who were programmed from an early age that college was the only path to choose, may continue to steer students away from vocational training and into a university or college. Celebrity advocates like Mike Rowe, whose “Dirty Jobs” television show brought him a spotlight that he now uses to advocate for vocational education, are working to help people get past the perception that college should be the ultimate goal for every student.

In an evolving economy with an industrial sector clearly on the rebound, the work of Rowe and others like him could get some dollars-and-cents backing from the reality of the workforce.

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