A skilled trade is as valuable as a college education

A skilled trade is as valuable as a

The Issue: Having a skilled and/or educated work force is vital for a community.

Our View: Even though a college education is in reach for most students, it isn’t for everyone.

CARLINVILLE (Oct. 19, 2017) – With Blackburn College’s recent implementation of their Macoupin Promise program and their recording-breaking capital campaign success, the goal of a college education has been in the news a lot lately. That’s a great thing, because there’s no doubt an educated populace will hopefully mean more job opportunities, including some home-grown businesses from all those educated entrepreneurs.

Having an education and/or learning a trade are extremely important when it comes to surviving a sluggish economy. Even when the rest of the country is seeing growth, that isn’t always the case here in Illinois where state taxes, fees and red tape have sent businesses heading for the borders. It’s important to both the state and Macoupin County to nurture our local talent in the hope of growing the economy from the inside rather that waiting from businesses from other areas to locate here.

While making a college education available for everyone is a great thing, the value of trade workers cannot be overlooked. College isn’t for everyone and an economy cannot survive, let alone thrive, when it lacks electricians, mechanics, welders, plumbers, etc. These positions required highly skilled workers.

There was a time when high schools had a wide variety of trade courses from which to choose. Auto mechanics, wood shop, welding and agriculture are just a few of the many trade courses offered in the high school. While no one is saying these courses taught students everything they needed to know about any given industry, these classes gave students the opportunity to find out what fields interested them.

Now, high schools offer few if any trade courses, which means it’s more difficult for students to learn what kinds of jobs are out there.

The lack of trade skills being offered in most high schools has created a void in a number of professions. People who have such jobs because they got a taste of what it was like to have a trade skill in high school 35+ years ago are now looking at retirement and there is no one to replace them. These are necessary, high-paying jobs. The sort of jobs that only require year or two of training and some time as an apprentice to learn. The problem is, the young people who would normally fill these jobs are flipping burgers or, worse, unemployed. They don’t know about becoming a pipe fitter because they were never taught such careers exist. This doesn’t just fall on the shoulders of schools — most of which dropped trade classes in favor of college-prep courses, because a college path just seemed more favorable at the time — parents are also responsible for exposing their kids to careers.  It’s easy to tell a kid they need to figure out what to do with their life, unfortunately, such orders don’t work. It isn’t always about what one wants to do. It’s about knowing the most important thing a high school graduate needs to learn is they have to find a way to support themselves. If they find a job doing something they love, great, but that isn’t usually the case.

A college education is just one way to expose young people to what the world has to offer, but it is by no means the only way. Learning a skill that will put students on a path that will help them get the sort of job that will provide them with the income they’ll need to live a life they want is the answer. It doesn’t matter if that skill is learned in a college or a trade school, it’s just important they latch on to something that lands them solidly in the work force.