Our View: Listen up graduates, the trades might be for you

Construction workers place beams on a building in the Price Chopper parking lot in Wilkes-Barre Township in this 2016 file photo. A career in the trades could be the perfect route for a recent high school graduate who doesn’t aspire to a four-year degree. - Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

Our pages have been filled lately with scenes from local graduations, and we’ve also profiled some top graduates in our recent EXCEL special section.

No doubt our future is in good hands with so many talented young people around.

Now, in just about two months’ time, many of these fine teenagers will head to institutions of higher learning, their freshmen and sophomore years filled with the courses that comprise the typical liberal arts education before they specialize in a field of study.

Nothing wrong with that.

But graduates, please listen up.

We are here to tell you there is another way.

What if you could cut your time in school in half — from the customary four years for a bachelor’s degree to just two years or even less?

And what if when completing that coursework, you would virtually be guaranteed a job that not only offered good pay right from the start, but the kind of work that would leave you with a real sense of satisfaction.

We’re talking about a career in the trades.

Carpenters, electricians, plumbers, millwrights, mechanics, masons and more. (It’s getting pretty hot out there, so don’t forget about those all-important HVAC technicians who help keep us cool. They make an average hourly pay of more than $23, according to a website listing the highest-paying skilled trades.)

In a broader sense, a trade could include specialized careers in the health care field or computer technology, such as a medical records technician, a respiratory therapist or a web developer.

None of the jobs mentioned above require four-year degrees. But they offer good salaries and are jobs in demand.

In other words, you can likely start in your career field right away and start building a nest egg in your early 20s.

Meanwhile, many who earn a bachelor’s might not be able to find a job at first — or ever — in their field of study. They might wind up waiting tables or working at a retail outlet for $10 or $12 an hour. We aren’t putting down that kind of work, but those jobs aren’t going to do much to help folks pay back their college debt.

And that’s another big thing to consider. We’ve worked with far too many recent college grads who owe tens of thousands of dollars to their alma mater, and probably will owe well into their 30s.

According to Student Loan Hero, the average student loan debt for Class of 2017 graduates was $39,400. (We know local graduates, however, who owe almost double that after four years of higher learning.)

Besides the financial and practical sides of our arguments for trade school, there is also a much more personal factor to consider.

Here at the Times Leader, we can tell you the editors and others feel a sense of achievement when grabbing copies of a well-done edition fresh off the press.

But imagine what trade professionals feel when driving by buildings they helped build or homes they remodeled.

And it will be the guys and gals who report to work wearing tool belts — not ties — who will be relied on to rebuild in the wake of last week’s tornado in Wilkes-Barre Township. We’re sure many of them have been reporting to work with a little extra starch in their step, knowing how many folks are counting on them.

We’d ask the recent grads out there without definite plans for the fall, rising seniors, and high school students in general to start thinking about a career in the trades for the benefit of themselves and the rest of us who simply don’t have those critical skills.

Four-year degrees are great. But they are not the gold standard, and not everyone needs one.

— Times Leader

Construction workers place beams on a building in the Price Chopper parking lot in Wilkes-Barre Township in this 2016 file photo. A career in the trades could be the perfect route for a recent high school graduate who doesn’t aspire to a four-year degree.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/web1_TTL050416construction-feature1.jpgConstruction workers place beams on a building in the Price Chopper parking lot in Wilkes-Barre Township in this 2016 file photo. A career in the trades could be the perfect route for a recent high school graduate who doesn’t aspire to a four-year degree. Aimee Dilger | Times Leader