Different roads

Different roads

Other paths to career success for students not cut out for college

By Carl Kozlowski 02/27/2014

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It seems that every US president aims to make college a hallmark of a citizen’s education and a vital part of the American Dream. But what if your son or daughter doesn’t have the ability to handle college, or simply doesn’t want to go? 

Thankfully, there are plenty of alternatives these days for students to attend trade and vocational schools and eventually acquire a good-paying blue collar job. It is estimated that there will be 10-million job openings in skilled trades, ranging from elevator repair to plumbing, by 2020, and they’ll pay far better than most entry-level office jobs for college students. 

The key is to overcome the stigma placed upon a hard day’s work in the nearly 70 years since World War II ended and the GI Bill enabled millions of Americans to attend college who might otherwise have had no interest in doing so. If the only types of career paths that are respected are the ones that lead to an office cubicle, the US is going to have a very hard time adjusting when the older workforce retires. 

Thus, now is an excellent time to encourage non-college-bound young people and those seeking to retrain for a new career to attend trade schools such as East San Gabriel Valley Regional Occupational Program and Technical College in West Covina or Los Angeles Trade Tech on the edge of downtown LA. 

There are dozens of career options available, the study terms are often shorter than a regular four-year college because the point is to focus on career training rather than a broader education, and the tuition is likely easier to pay off when graduates head into higher-paying jobs than their office-bound friends. 
Some skilled trades also still have apprenticeships in which new employees learn on the job from a veteran skilled worker. This may sound just like the internships that many college students take on, but apprenticeships actually pay, enabling their participants to actually come out ahead of their college-attending peers.

Students can also follow the time-honored path of joining the armed forces to gain job skills and life experience, while maintaining the opportunity to attend college for free later under the GI Bill. With our forces from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan exhausted after multiple tours of duty, this is also a great time to help the military find fresher, less battle-weary troops.

Artistic students who have drawn attention for their abilities in acting, music, fine arts, photography or graphic arts should also consider just going for it and make the effort to break into those fields for success using the combination of job skills and life knowledge they have already 

Finally, don’t forget that Bill Gates never graduated from college, either, and instead launched one of the world’s biggest companies, Microsoft. While it may seem unlikely that another global sensation like that computer powerhouse could ever happen again, having an abiding passion for a particular line of work can be a sign that a person should consider opening their own business in the field and attain life success as an entrepreneur. 

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