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Spotlight on Trade Careers

Not everyone is college material, and there’s no shame in that. However, it also doesn’t mean you’re doomed to a dead end job. Consider a trade career. Many of them pay well, doesn’t require nearly as much education, and sometimes you can earn while you learn. These careers are especially good for those that learn by doing as that is frequently how you are taught. The best part is that the vast majority of these jobs are in demand, which means finding a job will be fairly easy. Some people even graduate from their trade school with a ready job.

Now a couple of things to consider. Trade work doesn’t mean a total absence of classroom work; there is less classroom though than would be for a college education however. Also don’t expect to leave school automatically making top dollar. Like any other job there are often levels, and you will have to pay your dues. Don’t let this deter you though as the money will come with the work and learning.

So what sort of work are we talking about? Well, the first job sector that frequently comes to mind when discussing trades is the construction trades. HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), carpentry, electrical, plumbing, masonry, and more fall into this category. There are some schools (like BOCES) that offer education in these fields. If you can’t find a trade school, another option is to contact the local union. The union will likely have apprenticeship programs or sponsor one. Just make sure you’re in a registered apprenticeship program.

Another trade sector is service/medical. Nursing assistant, LPN (licensed practical nurse), radiology technician, and other medical personnel fall under this sector. These are also highly sought after employees. These trades require more education than other sectors, but you still will be doing a lot of practical (clinical) work as well.

Industrial trades includes welders, machinists, and metal fabricators. Like the construction trades, there are trade schools and unions where you can get started.

There are additional trade fields if these don’t appeal. Do a little googling and you can find your future career and what you need to do to get going.

Having discussed some of the sectors, why get into the trades at all? Lots of reasons.

For starters, you gain work experience immediately. Unlike a college education, you’ll be doing the actual work that you will do throughout your career. Also unlike a college education, people tend to graduate from trade school with little to no debt. Most price tags on trade school are less than $10,000 (depending on your trade) whereas $10,000 may cover just one or two semesters of college. You are eligible for grants (PELL, TAP, WIOA) and loans. Scholarships may also be available or used for trade schools. You’ll also make a good living so any loans you may have had to take out will be paid off in a shorter period than the average college graduate.

Time is also a factor. Depending on your trade, your education will last two years max with many being much less time. For example, you can be an electrician less than six months or an LPN in 18 months (based on a BOCES time schedule).

Lastly, there is a huge need for the trades. With the baby boomers retiring, they are leaving a vast gap that needs to be filled. Finding a job will be no problem with almost all the trades.

To find out more about a trade you may be interested in, call your local trade school, union, or look online at O*NET.


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