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Trade schools, also known as vocational schools, offer specialized programs for those who want to dive headlong into a new career. And they may even have benefits that outweigh those of a four-year college.

Experts Speak Up About Trade School Benefits

There is no one right path to success after high school; for most grads the first step is to choose a college or university. But this can be an overwhelming task, especially considering the rising cost of education. Trade schools, also known as vocational schools, offer specialized programs for those who want to dive headlong into a new career. And they may even have benefits that outweigh those of a four-year college.

It's a unique time for trade schools. With the economy still recovering, there is a shortage of skilled labor and an increase in the number of middle-skill jobs available -- jobs that require some training, but not necessarily a four-year degree. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says that middle-skill jobs made up about 45% of U.S. jobs in 2014, and that number will likely hold steady through 2015. Middle-skill jobs can be found in a wide range of industries, including:

  • Art & Design
  • Automotive
  • Business & Finance
  • Culinary Arts
  • Health Care
  • Information Technology
  • Law & Criminal Justice
  • Skilled Trades
About the Experts

Catherine Morris is a computer networking and information system security Instructor & Clover technical College

Jon DeEsch is a Senior Trades Instructor at Penn Foster College.

 What are some of the key benefits of trade school?

A: Catherine Morris

Let's face it, for many individuals a four-year degree can seem daunting and distant. In addition, the cost of higher education continues to increase. Vocational and trade schools give individuals a more affordable option, the same quality result, and a faster path to a career. On the same note, industries are in need of skilled workers. Trade schools and technical colleges provide an opportunity for individuals to obtain a post-secondary education earning industry-recognized certifications, professional licenses, or even an associate's degree, so that they may obtain gainful employment in the workforce.

A: Jon DeEsch

In a broad sense, cost and completion time are the two obvious advantages of a trade school when compared to a typical college degree. Traditionally, training for a trade or vocational career path was primarily in an "apprentice-like" format, which is not conducive to theory-based learning. In today's world, systems and components have become very sophisticated as have the diagnostic tools and software used to maintain and repair them. Having a background in theory is essential for diagnosing and troubleshooting in the timely and efficient manner required when working in the field.

How do trade schools provide a viable path to career success? Additionally, how do you and your school foster this success in students?

A: Catherine Morris

Our goal is to prepare students to succeed in the workforce. We do that by training students to exceed employer standards in lab environments that mirror industry settings. Using a hands-on approach in the class, and obtaining internships and apprenticeships within the local community gives students first-hand experience in their chosen trade. They gain industry connections they can use to obtain employment upon completion. Each program creates and maintains partnerships with local employers in the community and industry partners. We also evaluate employer satisfaction on key areas from workplace skills to job performance, collecting and obtaining valuable feedback from the industry, while giving students the opportunity to explore careers.

A: Jon DeEsch

Given the realities of production and time constraints, trying to learn as an apprentice on the job site or in the office is difficult at best. A formal trade school program provides the background essential to overall career success.

The exciting part as an instructor [in an online program] is the flexibility that the online format offers. The newest technology lets students access their lesson materials from desktops, laptops, and handheld devices whenever they wish. We strongly encourage interaction between students, and with instructors, in a very active social networking Student Community. Peer support is a critical element of the learning process both academically and motivationally. Since our learning model is asynchronous, students are enrolling and graduating in the same program every day. The opportunity to benefit from earlier experiences, and then provide mentoring themselves, is a valuable advantage for our graduates.

Many industries report having a shortage of skilled workers. How does this impact the growth of your school's programs?

A: Catherine Morris

We center our educational programs around industry needs. Our 43 program areas fit a variety of needs and include retraining for another career, continuing education, educational support for veterans, and assistance for high school graduates. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, "there are only about 1,000 security specialists in the United States who have the specialized skills to operate effectively in cyberspace, however, the United States needs about 10,000 to 30,000 such individuals."

A: Jon DeEsch

Naturally the rules of supply and demand apply to education as they would do in any other industry. To me, the key word to the question is "skilled." Being in the position to provide the necessary skills the shortage demands will naturally lead to growth in related educational programs.

Which areas do you see benefiting the most from this shortage of skilled workers?

A: Catherine Morris

Computer Networking and Information Systems Security Professionals can be found in nearly every industry that uses computer technology to store and manage information. There are various occupations that protect networks and electronic information systems from unauthorized access, thus the workforce spans both private and public sectors.

A: Jon DeEsch

Due to the overall "aging process," the two main areas where I anticipate growth are in the medical field and infrastructure. It is well known that our overall population is growing older, and our bridges, highways, and buildings are not aging gracefully. Naturally there will be an increased need for various medical service providers, as well as engineering support personnel, including designers, computer draftsman, and construction technology tradesman. What is interesting, however, is the resulting "ripple effect" which will increase the demand for technicians across the board. For example, electronics technicians to repair medical equipment, diesel mechanics to service heavy equipment, tradesman proficient in the required "Green Technologies" present in new construction, and computer support personnel in virtually all areas.

About the Experts

Catherine Morris earned her Associate's degree in applied Sciences (AAS-T), Computer & information Systems Security from clover Park Technical College.

Jon DeEsch obtained his Masters degree (MS) in Education Curriculum and Instruction from University of Scranton.

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