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Why the trades might be the path to success for future generations

On Saturday night I found myself in an interesting debate: College or an alternative path? Having both an undergraduate and graduate degree, naturally, one would think that I'd be pro-college. And I am, to a certain extent.

We found ourselves discussing college as we knew it, compared to what it is today. The job market as we knew it, versus what it is today. And the costs and benefits of each route. In the room were two CPAs, a doctor, and a tradesmen (welder). You'd think that the debate would sway heavily to the college side as well, but that's not exactly what happened.

We all admitted that college is the correct (and only) path for some professions. You can't simply skip college and expect to operate on people. Nor can you bypass the prerequisites for sitting for the CPA exam and obtain a license to practice. However, there are plenty of jobs out there which do not require 4 years at a university, and in fact, they shouldn't.

My undergraduate degree, for example, was in Supply Chain Management. Now, I can say firsthand that you absolutely do not need 4 years of higher education to perform the tasks and responsibilities of this job, as on-the-job training would most certainly be more beneficial than learning from a book. But what if there were a trade school for supply chain or marketing or coding? My guess is that it would serve the worker and the employer much better than the current situation. Productivity for both parties would be much higher if certain areas did not require a degree but rather a list of capabilities and competencies that one possesses. Can you or can you not market on social media? Can you or can you not code to develop a website? The piece of paper that comes with these degrees is worthless if the students cannot perform the basic functions necessary to run the business.

The fact of the matter is, if someone goes to a state college for advertising and spends $25K/year, what is the ROI on that 4-year degree? Alternatively, getting a General Contractor's license can be done for under $1,000, including the educational component to sit for the exam. Lots of money and job satisfaction can be had with advertising, and the same holds true for construction.

As I write this article, inflation is ripping through the US with items such as gasoline, food, clothing, and other consumer goods. What most people forget, and perhaps never realized to begin with, is that inflation in higher education has been occurring for a very long time. Wages have not kept up with the cost of a 4-year degree, plain and simple. If you're dead set on certain professions, that's no way around this; however, if you're looking to build cabinetry or broker commercial buildings, chances are you'll be much better off seeking an alternative path.

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