When high school students reach graduation time, they’re usually confronted with some different avenues for further education, including college and trade school. With tuition rates consistently on the rise and student debts piling up, many high schoolers are becoming disillusioned with college.1,2
At the same time, there has been a skilled trades shortage, in part due to baby boomers retiring.3 With college becoming less enticing and a strong need for skilled trades workers, it begs the question: how many high school students know about trades?
Here, we’ll take a look at what high schoolers really think about the trades, how many are aware it’s an option and what might be keeping more from joining.
The Push for College after High School
For many high school students, going to college is a matter of momentum rather than a conscious decision. Well-meaning parents and high school counselors tend to relay an outdated narrative that a four-year degree is the only way to succeed professionally.4 In fact, a recent StrataTech survey found that 59% of high school students feel that a bachelor’s degree is necessary to get a good job. Although this number is down over 10% from previous years, this misconception is still causing some students to waste a significant amount of time and money on an educational path that’s not right for them.5
There are several trends pointing to the disconnection that exists between the motivations high school students have for attending college and what they expect to achieve:
- For example, over half of undergraduates end up taking more than four years to complete their degree.
- One-third of students end up switching their area of study at least once.4
- Of the students that do graduate, over 40% are holding jobs that they could have earned without their degree.4
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How Many High School Students Know about Trades?
- Even with a tradition of heralding a post-secondary degree as the ideal path to success after graduation, high school students aren’t completely in the dark when it comes to the trades: 80% of high school respondents in a recent StrataTech Education Group survey held a positive view of a career in the skilled trades.5
- Of those students who held the trades in high regard, nearly 54% viewed these careers positively.5
- 63% of respondents felt that vocational or trade schools offer more value when compared to their public college counterparts.5
What Do High Schoolers Think about the Trades?
When digging a little deeper into the sentiments high schoolers hold about the trades, it’s evident why they’re regarded so highly. The two most common motivations high schoolers had for enrolling or considering enrolling in a vocational school were the high potential for job placement and the opportunity to obtain real-life work experience.5 When asked to rank the benefits of a skilled trades career, the top three responses were earning potential, job security and benefits.5
What Percent of High School Students Go to Trade School?
With college commonly touted as the sole path to professional success, it’s no wonder that just under 16% of surveyed high school graduates enrolled in a vocational or trade school.5
However, a little over 40% seriously considered pursuing an education in the skilled trades, suggesting a shift in thinking among high school students.5 More specifically, 40% of respondents have thought about becoming a mechanic while 36% and 32% have considered electrician classes and welding training, respectively.5
How COVID-19 Impacted College Enrollment
The education sector is still reeling from the impact of COVID-19, with students taking the brunt of the impact. College enrollment suffered an unprecedented dip during the pandemic, declining 6.8% from the year prior.6 As with many factors related to the pandemic, lower-income communities suffered greater losses, seeing a more severe drop in high school enrollment when compared to advantaged groups.6
But, there might be a silver lining because some people have found an alternative in the trades: 57% of survey respondents currently enrolled or considering enrolling in a trade school cite the pandemic as their motivation.5 Many were also motivated to enter into a role as an essential worker.5
How Can a High School Student Learn a Trade?
Tulsa Welding School offers a variety of trade school training programs to prepare students for entry-level jobs in the skilled trades. As college is becoming less appealing for many after the pandemic, some are wondering: can high school students enroll in the trades program? Yes, as soon as they graduate. Tulsa Welding School only requires applicants to have a GED or a high school diploma. Younger students can take high school shop classes to start learning a trade in the meantime.
Are you interested in learning more about the trades or receiving industry-calibrated vocational training to prepare for your career? Reach out to a Tulsa Welding School rep today. Call 855-981-7313.