Attitudes toward the best path to a successful career are changing. For decades, young people have been told that a traditional college degree is essential for getting ahead in life. Yet, given the time commitment and high cost of college during an era of general economic strain, high school students are now considering hands-on training instead of higher education. According to a 2021 survey, the percentage of high schoolers planning to attend a four-year college has dropped from 71% to just 48%.

Another reason for this shift in attitude is the demand for tradespeople, which has been strongly highlighted during the pandemic. In light of the labor shortages in infrastructure fields like construction, transportation, and logistics, young people are instead showing increasing interest in attending less expensive and shorter-duration trade schools. Here are some of the benefits that factor into this new career prep trend.

What Is a Trade School?

A trade school, also called a technical school or vocational school, prepares students for specific skilled labor jobs, often in mechanical fields. Trade school programs train people for a wide variety of careers:

  • Plumber
  • HVAC technician
  • Mechanic
  • Cosmetologist
  • Massage therapist
  • Welding
  • Electrical technician
  • Aircraft mechanic

There are significant benefits to enrolling in these programs over a traditional degree program as well.

Benefits of Attending Trade School

  • Takes less time to complete. How long it takes to complete this training depends on the program you choose and certification laws in your state, but most programs take between six months and two years to complete. That’s only a small fraction of the time needed to complete an undergraduate degree, not to mention a graduate school program. The less time you spend getting career training, the faster you can start an internship or enter the workforce directly.
  • Can be a good option for those who don’t like traditional school. People who don’t excel in academic subjects or aren’t particularly interested in pursuing careers related to them may be good candidates for trade school. This is especially true for individuals who like working with their hands, fixing things, and solving physical or mechanical problems. As one trade intern put it, traditional college students “[pay] a lot of money to take courses they don’t like to get jobs they might not even want.”
  • Leads to lucrative jobs. Some trade school jobs pace or outmatch the salaries of careers requiring a four-year degree. In 2022, the highest-salaried trade job paid $97,180 per year. Similarly lucrative careers include elevator and escalator technicians, radiation therapists, nuclear medicine technologists, and dental hygienists. Compare this with 2020’s average starting salary from jobs requiring a college degree—$55,260—and it’s not difficult to see the financial appeal of a trade program.
  • Significantly reduces or eliminates school loan debt. Most technical school programs cost only about $33,000 in total, which is less than the cost of one year of education at some colleges and universities. As a result, most students graduate with only about $10,000 of debt. By comparison, as of 2021, the average student loan debt for those with bachelor’s degrees was $28,800.
  • Offers career flexibility. Because trade school programs cost so much less time and money to complete, it’s easier for skilled laborers to enroll in additional programs to gain more advanced or specialized skills, or change their careers This is appealing because they won’t be locked into an unfulfilling career. The ability to upskill or change jobs offers opportunities for upward financial mobility and entrepreneurship as well.
  • Qualifies people for jobs that are always in demand. Unlike jobs in other industries (such as hospitality) that saw high unemployment rates during the pandemic, skilled labor jobs are in increasingly high demand. Many tradespeople are considered essential workers: they contribute to crucial infrastructure and other key fields that keep local and national economies running. In 2022, one of the most glaring examples of trade job demand was the shortage of truck drivers amid supply-chain problems.

Get Trade Job Training with JobTrain

If you’re thinking about enrolling in a trade school, consider signing up for JobTrain’s Pre-Apprenticeship Training Programs in Carpentry and Building Maintenance. Or enter JobTrain’s programs for other high demanding fields: Medical Assistants, Certified Nursing Assistant and IT Support & Services. All these programs give individuals the entrance into fields that offer upward mobility.

JobTrain is an accredited educational and training institution that transforms lives and communities in Silicon Valley. JobTrain helps the Valley’s most in need reclaim their lives from poverty and unemployment by preparing them for successful, sustainable careers in high-demand and emerging fields.

Each of JobTrain’s programs combines vocational training, academics, and essential skills development, preparing students to turn their lives around—from unemployment and poverty to success and self-sufficiency. Contact us today to learn more or sign up for an introduction presentation!