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In the current economic landscape, attending a traditional college or university can seem less than appealing. High student loan debt and no real guarantee of employment after graduation can make higher education seem like an expensive luxury of possibly trivial worth.
However, there are opportunities for those who have recently graduated from high school and want to get a head start on their careers without saddling themselves with outrageous debt. What alternatives are out there? Let’s take a look.
Vocational Schools and Apprenticeships
Vocational schools provide postsecondary education that trains students for a specific industry. The types of jobs that vocational schools train for vary widely, from positions in the healthcare field to more hands-on work that still requires specialized skills. Vocational schools are more affordable than traditional college or university programs, and because they are streamlined to train for a specific job or trade, they generally take less time to complete as well.
Apprenticeship programs are similar to vocational skills in that they train for a specific job; however, there are some key differences. When someone apprentices under a master of a trade, they work while they learn, effectively beginning their career in their chosen trade while they are still pursuing their education. While those that go through apprenticeship programs are free to go and work wherever they like after the conclusion of the apprenticeship, most tend to stay with the business that trained them.
Though both apprenticeships and vocational schools provide job training, the experience will be much different. Vocational schools have a much more academic setting, with classes, tests, and many different students learning together. Apprenticeships are a bit more personal and typically accommodate only one apprentice at a time, meaning that the learning is very hands-on and the apprentice will feel a stronger connection with the company he or she is working with. Both apprenticeships and vocational schools train for a wide variety of jobs from plumbing and pipe-fitting to watchmaking and even graphic design.
Working With Your Head
A common misconception about apprenticeships and vocational schooling is that the jobs are generally all going to be filled with hard labor of some sort or require people to be constantly working with their hands. However, there are many technical jobs that are available where basic computer skills are more important than knowing how to fix an engine. Careers in IT and healthcare, in particular, will rely more on brain power than physical labor.
There are apprenticeships available for people going into the financial services industry, the telecommunications industry, and the energy industry. In many of the roles in these environments, understanding technology and possessing other soft skills like interpersonal communication are key to success. These jobs also tend to pay handsomely while not having grueling work schedules, leading to high job satisfaction.
Other professions that require a great deal of skill but don’t necessarily require physical labor are the watchmaking or jewelry industries. Becoming a jeweler requires acute attention to detail and the ability to analyze the needs and product requirements in order to make a design. Industries like watchmaking and the jewelry industry need dependable workers with integrity who are interested in art and design.
Working With Your Hands
For people who like to work with their hands over sitting in an office chair all day, there are even more opportunities that apprenticeships and vocational schooling can provide. Jobs that require skilled labor also tend to have great demand and job security, so those that enter these fields have no problems finding work wherever they want to go. Whether someone enjoys rebuilding old transmissions or building tree houses, they can turn that passion into a full-fledged career.
Automotive master mechanics make a decent salary while getting to tinker with cars all day, and there is no shortage of need for mechanics anywhere in the U.S. As a result, they often enjoy the luxury of being able to pick and choose where they would like to work. Being able to troubleshoot and repair engine problems and having meticulous attention to detail when maintaining equipment is essential in this industry. Depending on where an automotive master mechanic works, they can make anywhere from $45,000 to $60,000 a year.
The construction industry also has plenty of opportunities for young people that want to earn while they learn, gaining a skill set while avoiding costly student loans. Finding an apprenticeship as a bricklayer, carpenter, electrician, pipe fitter, or plumber is relatively easy, and all of these professions have decent wages and job security. Anywhere that things are being built, these professions will be hard at work building hospitals, schools, office buildings, and anything else needed.
Getting a well-paying, satisfying job doesn’t mean that people have to go to college or university, taking on tens of thousands of dollars in debt. People can begin their career right out of high school by becoming an apprentice for a trade, or they can spend a fraction of the cost of attending college by going to a vocational school to learn the skills necessary to enter a trade. There are plenty of opportunities out there for people, no matter what they would like to do; all they have to do is take the leap and get their lives started.