• Joanna Gaden and Melissa Wilson

You Don’t Need a College Degree to Bring Home the Bacon

Updated: Feb 15


Thinking about working after high school instead of going to college? You’re not alone. According to a recent article on Market Watch, one in five Generation Z-ers and young millennials (15 to 24 year olds) are on the fence about attending college and getting a degree. This means that about 20% of young people are going against the grain, acknowledging the massive student debt that would accompany college, and are considering apprenticing, trade school, or simply jumping right into the job world without a degree.

You might be thinking: “If I skip college, I’ll never get a job that will allow me to make enough money.” Think again. Market Watch named Google, Facebook, Airbnb, and Oracle as companies who don’t require a 4-year college degree for several positions. Certain jobs (i.e. mechanical designer, electrical technician, manufacturing technician and telecommunications technician) at these companies list a Bachelor’s degree as “preferred,” but equivalent to relevant work experience. In other words, as long as you are working towards your career goals, learning applicable skills, obtaining lower level jobs that will lead to top opportunities, and overall “getting your foot in the door,” taking classes for four years isn’t really necessary.

Your parents, educators, and friends may already be encouraging you to go to college, as they did or are intending to do, but college is only ONE path out of many that will allow you to succeed in your career. If you jump right in to work, think about the money you’ll generate and save that would otherwise go towards college debt indefinitely.

In addition to the aforementioned careers at top, big name companies that do not require a 4 year degree, manufacturing (see Vector Trade Inc.) and construction companies offer jobs to those with trade skills (e.g. welding) right out of high school. There is a drastic skills gap in such jobs, as the Baby Boomer generation (i.e. your parents and grandparents) is retiring and high school grads have been taught “for the last generation or two [that] they have to go to college,” to succeed (see the article on Fox 8 here). With a strong work ethic and investment in the job, you can explain to companies why you didn’t go to college, but are still qualified with relevant skills and work experience.

You can also look into doing apprenticeships, paid internships that allow you to simultaneously work towards your certification, in construction and manufacturing fields. Find paid training opportunities at the Carpenters Union, statewide, for carpentry and Operating Engineers 324 to learn how to operate cranes, big rigs and even do HVAC and stationary machinery work.

If you don’t know where to start, visit:

  • Automation Alley, which aims to shrink the skills gap by connecting manufacturing and technology companies to eager high school grads. Automation Alley makes it easy to investigate apprenticeship programs, which can get you trained and working hands-on in your field.

  • Indeed Job Board. Indeed, and other similar job boards, allow you to filter for any type of job in your desired area. You can search for types of jobs, necessary education and work experience requirements, apprenticeships, and paid training, among many other filters. This resource can give you a good idea of the types of jobs that are out there and available to you as a high school graduate as well as what skills you’ll need to work in certain positions.

  • Project Accelerate, which assists women in getting exposure to and learning about the construction trade. After completion of the hands-on construction course, you have the opportunity to receive career counseling and mentorship from women in your field; this asset assists in pairing young professionals with viable jobs. You can apply to take courses in 2019 here.

  • Oakland Schools Technical Campuses (OSTC). which offers courses in a wide range of job fields (including construction technology, welding, and machining) that can help you acquire the necessary skills to get your foot in the door at jobs that don’t require 4 year college degrees.

If you’re unsure about committing to four years of higher education, try getting paid to learn a trade and/or build work skills instead of paying to get a 4-year degree. There is no one path to success but many, however nontraditional, out of order, or impractical they may seem.

#trade #Construction #manufacturing #youth #skillsgap #talent #workforce

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