College isn’t for everybody.
I heard that phrase day after day my senior year of high school. I watched some of my buddies join the military to learn a trade, while others went to trade school. And of course, there were a lot of us who headed off to college thinking while there we’d figure out what we wanted to be when we grew up.
Since my football comeback from a knee injury fell well short of the NFL, I knew I’d have to do something to put food on the table and gas in my 1973 Oldsmobile Cutlass.
As far as education, life hasn’t changed much since then. College isn’t for everybody and neither is trade school. Luckily, we have choices.
Even back in my high school days I thought our school, and America in general, didn’t do enough to encourage and train those who wanted to do something that didn’t require a college education. Doctors and lawyers are great – journalists, too – but we need plumbers and electricians just as bad.
Anyway, that’s why I have been encouraged to see the growth of the Construction Trades Program at Salem High School. The program got some great news recently when it was announced that Salem R-80 School District is pursuing a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant for a new classroom, shop and training building on the high school campus (page 1A in the March 19 print edition and on thesalemnewsonline.com).
If awarded, a 15,000 square foot building would include classrooms for a computer science program by day and a job training program by night. There is a lot more to the story, but suffice it to say the expansion would benefit many students and adults who want to learn a trade.
This program and facility are paramount to not only satisfying the needs of students, but training that will help grow a work force that helps Dent County economic development. In short, our work force is not what it needs to be. The program would help not only train workers who want to go on to good-paying jobs in the big city, but train those who want to stay home and attract new businesses and help current ones expand. A trained work force is a business magnet.
The average trade school degree costs $33,000 compared to $127,000 for a bachelor’s degree. The average debt load for students with a two-year technical school degree is $10,000, 70 percent less than the graduate of a four-year school, according to the Department of Labor.
You don’t have to go to college to make good money, either. Occupational therapy assistants make an average of $56,200 a year, dental assistants $33,168, brickmasons $66,635 and plumbers $63,635, according to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center. That’s not all, computer systems analysts check in at an average of $87,231 and software developers $91,312. All of those careers can begin in a trade school.
There is quite a shortage of all of the above and more opportunity than ever for skilled workers in America today. We all know where health-care demand is heading, and with an improving economy, construction-related trades are in great demand. Technology and the demand for skilled workers in that field has been in constant demand for decades.
We need to continue to make our kids college-ready who want to go that route. Salem has done a great job with that for a long time. There have been opportunities for students interested in learning a trade, but not to the level that we would see if the construction trades and related programs, and a new facility, continue to fruition.
Current businesses in Dent and surrounding counties are starving for skilled workers. If we do a better job as a community of providing these skilled workers, we grow and prosper. It’s that simple.
This isn’t just about the money. Some students don’t want, can’t afford or don’t have the inclination to go to a four-year school to seek a degree. Trade school and training is for those students, too. Some of them would rather clean teeth than teach Algebra, or fix a leaky sink than figure someone’s taxes.
We need to pave the way for them both.