Traditional college not always best path into today's job market

The lack of job-readiness of college graduates is in the news a lot lately. Study after study finds that student expectations exceed the reality when it comes to finding that first job.

With a bachelor’s degree in hand, many graduates are poorly prepared for the job market. They’re also saddled with high debt and no way to pay it down for the foreseeable future. Many will find themselves settling for retail or seasonal jobs just to make some money until they can find a career position.

While college has long been the preferred path to higher education, more and more young people today are considering alternative routes, especially those with promise of a good job. After climbing for many decades, college admission rates have been on the decline for three years. Enrollment in business, technical and trade schools, on the other hand, is surging. What used to be thought of as schools for those who struggled with traditional study or had no interest in college are now considered the smart choice for those who want to land a good job right away.

Stories about the best jobs that don’t require a college degree often include information technology − web development and coding top the list − but jobs in health care like phlebotomy, massage therapy, and medical assisting, and those in the trades, such as electrical engineering, are also good careers.

Students are turning to business and technical schools that can offer them diplomas in these fields without going through four years of study and back-breaking loans. In most cases, they can graduate from a program in nine to 20 months, and end up with just $15,000 in educational cost – not 10 times that amount with $150,000 in college loans.

Most business and technical schools not only focus on skills training and preparation for licensure that a student may need in a career, but also on getting their graduates “career ready.” The schools will often rehearse students on interview questions, and videotape them through a job-search process, so they can see how they present themselves and work on any areas that need professional polish. How many colleges do that?

Business and technical schools have excellent job placement rates, many as high as 75 percent to 85 percent of graduates landing jobs within several months of graduation.

I’m not criticizing traditional colleges. I have a degree from a prestigious college that has served me well and I’m grateful for my career. 

The goal of a four-year college was the prescribed path for decades. But it’s not for everyone. The world is different today and the needs in the job market have shifted. The educational paths of tomorrow will look very different from today. Statistics from the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities show that by the year 2020, 65 percent of all jobs will require some level of post-secondary education.

Our presidential candidates all mention creating and bringing jobs back. Jobs are already here. They’re in fields that perhaps our college graduates aren’t prepared for or haven’t considered because they’re still focused on more traditional positions in shrinking industries.

I’m happy to be on the leading edge of preparing students for careers where jobs do exist and they can make a difference. Many of the roles they fill help make life easier for others and provide needed services in information technology, electrical systems technology, massage therapy, esthetics, medical assistants, billing and coding, and many other fields today.

Business, technical and trade schools provide an excellent value today and students are wise to consider them.

Lauren Weymouth is vice president of business development for Ridley-Lowell Business & Technical Institute in New London. She volunteers as an Introduction Leader for Landmark Education, and holds a bachelor’s degree from Kenyon College and an M.B.A. with a concentration in finance from Oxford University

 

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