Building the Workforce: Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month

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As a general contractor, we benefit greatly from a diversification of backgrounds ranging from seasoned tradespeople to the younger generations coming into the workforce. Since February is Career and Technical Education Month, we're taking a look at one of the paths less traveled and why it’s more important than ever that it is recognized and encouraged… technical and vocational training.

It's no secret that historically there has been a hard push for a traditional 4-year college education over technical or trade schools in the United States. The concept that a bachelor’s degree, and these days a master’s degree, is the "only option for future success" is impressed upon kids from the very beginning, starting with parents and reinforced by teachers in school. The National Center for Education Statistics reflects this ongoing trend stating a 79% increase in traditional college enrollment since 1976 with a 28% increase from 2000 to 2016 alone. Partnered with this push for traditional schooling over trade school, especially in the 80's and 90's, the decline of vocational training participation and the skills they would have brought to the workforce is one of the major contributors to our labor shortage today.

Encouragingly trade school enrollment in more recent years has seen a rise in enrollment and overall public acceptance and enthusiasm. The Best Schools published an article in November of 2021 that reflects a jump from 9.6 million students in 1999 to 16 million in 2014, a 67% increase.

So, why now?
The Best Schools article goes on to discuss the benefits of trade school. With its more affordable programs and shorter training periods, it's a more economical and efficient solution for those looking to gain real world experience in addition to traditional study. Trade students are also typically able to train as a paid apprentice during their schooling, unlike the common unpaid internships of traditional college students. This increase in usable experience and decrease in student debt allows many trade school students the opportunity for more immediate success upon graduation. According to the Center for Employment Training, "the difference in debt between students who attended college or trade school is astonishing. Regardless of the field of study, the average cost of obtaining a degree from a trade school is $33,000 in contrast with an average of $132,000 for a bachelor's degree, including tuition fees." While this may be true, a student with a bachelor's degree generally begins their career with an additional $16,900 per year over a trade school diploma.

In summation, trade school offers a fast-tracked career path with less student debt, but the potential for a slightly reduced income long term. It is a deep dive into a particular discipline that is all encompassing and comprehensive. Where your education leaves off, real world experience picks up, and with the degree of passion so many tradesmen and women bring to work every day, they excel at what they do.

Knowing where your passions lie, and what skillsets best suit you will ultimately lead to a successful jump start to your career path. The bottom line is you can't go wrong! You can always further your education and you can always learn a new skill.

Happy CTE Month to all the tradespeople who have contributed to the growth and success of our communities!

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