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Taking a Different Route

06/06/2019 Blog

As our children grow up and enter the world of education, we continue to ingrain in them that there is one route to success — a four-year degree. Starting in high school, they prepare for the PSAT, continue to study for the SAT and ACT and finish it off with applying to colleges around the world.

But higher education is not solely defined by a four-year degree. There are other forms of higher education that will guide them in the right direction before entering the workforce.

While there are misconceptions about the construction and skilled labor industry, numbers prove that there are millions of jobs available in this field and compared to college graduates, they’re paid well. The average starting salary for college graduates stands at $50,004; however, student debt is on the rise and the class of 2018 graduated with an average of $29,800. The sum is difficult to cover, and a growing number of people are choosing different routes of higher education to avoid losing a paycheck to their debt.  In fact, one of the most important reasons students choose to pursue a four-year degree is for a high-paying job. The truth is, multiple careers in construction make an average of $65,000 per year and did not require a degree at a large institution.

This poses the question: How does one get higher education without going to a four-year institution?

The answer is simple.

1.    Apprenticeships

2.    Technical or community colleges

3.    Career and technical education (CTE)

Apprenticeships provide valuable on-the-job training and are structured programs relating to the technical and academic competencies that apply to the job. In fact, the construction industry in the U.S. represents approximately 30% of all active registered apprentices. Construction is one of the few industries where individuals are given the opportunity to develop skills and knowledge about a career, while earning a paycheck. Apprenticeships help you prepare for a construction career path just as easily as earning a two or four-year degree can.

Programs at technical or community college is another opportunity to gain higher education. Technical or community colleges offer shorter time spent in school and can be just as beneficial and rewarding as a four-year degree. In these programs, minimal debt is incurred, and the skills and education obtained during this time applies directly to careers upon graduation. Utilize curriculum from NCCER and learn a craft during your time at a smaller institution.

Aside from choosing a higher education route after high school, is it possible to access these skills and knowledge earlier on? Yes. Career and technical education (CTE) prepare secondary, postsecondary and adult students with hard and soft skills needed to build a successful career and life. CTE classes prepare students for a variety of high-skill, high-wage and high-demand careers.

Higher education can come in a variety of different forms. While a four-year degree may be the path for some, it is not the only form of higher education for students. Higher education is about acquiring skills and knowledge that will help you succeed in your desired career path.

“[The] goal here is to challenge the absurd belief that an expensive four-year education is the best path for the most people and confront the outdated stereotypes that continue to drive kids and parents away from a whole list of worthwhile careers,” Rowe said. “Many of the best opportunities that exist today require a skill, not a diploma.”

— Mike Rowe, Host of Discovery’s Dirty Jobs

Discover more about apprenticeships, technical or community colleges and CTE programs and start a career in construction today.


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