By Charlie McKenna, Staff Writer

How many times were you told in high school that you NEED to go to college? From the lofty heights of the White House, to your own high school guidance counselor, the message was consistent and constant. If you want a good job, you must go to college. 

Unfortunately for us, the people who were told again and again to go to University come out with minimal job experience, minimal skills, and maximum debt. 

Let’s assume that person X has gone to a decent public university, studied, but had a social life, made decent grades and got a degree, going out full of confidence and optimism into the work force. He would have the same characteristics as almost half of the workforce, have $35,200 in debt on average, and an economy that is none too favorable. 

So essentially, we are required by society to spend ours (and our parents’) money on an institution where we won’t have particularly great job prospects, we’ll have debt off the chains, and we probably won’t be particularly better educated than we were before.  No wonder other generations think we’re angry.

An alternative exists

So what’s the alternative? Most experts say it’s trade school. Unlike college, we can go in knowing that there is an economic demand for what we’re getting trained in. In fact, the demand for blue collar jobs has skyrocketed in just the past ten years. Why?

Well, because of our societal prejudice, we tend to view doctors and lawyers as “more respectable” than, say, plumbers and electricians. Kids are told to “dream big.” And too often, the idea of dreaming big has nothing to do with living a virtuous life, affecting those around us in a fruitful and positive way, or raising kids lovingly in a stable household. Nope, just being a lawyer. 

Unfortunately for all the dreamers out there, the job prospects for lawyers and many other white collar jobs are are declining. Demand for other jobs, meanwhile, is increasing. This switch is partially because of the technological revolution, the new accessibility of information, and its economic implications. It's also partially because the overwhelming number of people going to university has saturated the job market for many white collar careers.

A lingering stigma

But let’s get back to the stigma thing. In previous generations, going to college was a sign of hard work and status. When the normal occupation was blue collar, a BA was an honor. However, as time went on, the university system became a racket. An undergraduate degree became a pass into white collar professional society, and as undergrad education became more accessible and widely attained, it became a given. 

However, for some reason which completely eludes me, the public school system and older generations continued to push the message of college graduate superiority. By the time it was our turn to go to college, the system was bloated and ineffective. The undergraduate degree doesn’t get us anywhere in life. We were sold a bill of goods by previous generations trying to make their relatives and students “more respectable” while we suffered the consequences. Now, the joke is on us. 

Let’s compare lawyers to welders. How much school is required to become a welder? 3 years of trade school on average. For a lawyer? Four-year undergrad, and depending on how you pursue it, up to 5 years of law school. Welders? High demand, and strong job security. Lawyers?  Very low demand, and shaky job security. 

While it is true that the average starting salary of a lawyer is more than a welder, with job security and student debt factored into the picture, welding is clearly a more practical option. 

It is time we throw off these arbitrary and fictitious societal constructs of what makes a fruitful life. Blue collar work doesn’t somehow make a person less respectable. I’d rather be an employed welder than a destitute lawyer.

So forget college. Try trade school. 

AuthorCharlie McKenna