Proponents of vocational education argue that not every high school student needs to go to college to find a rewarding career.
The California legislature agrees. As part of this fiscal year’s budget, the legislature, in cooperation with the governor, has earmarked $20 million for community colleges to develop Career Technical Education programs in cooperation with local high schools. The programs will be aimed at training students for high-paying blue-collar jobs (carpenters, electricians, auto mechanics, etc). Many school districts have abandoned such programs in the belief that all their students should attend college, which has created a shortage of such workers in the state.
But the truth is most jobs are filled by workers who do not have a degree, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not see that changing (at least not through 2012).
Over the next six-and-a-half years, job openings for workers who are entering an occupation for the first time (and lack a bachelor’s degree) are expected to total about 42 million. That’s more than three times the number of job openings expected for workers who have a bachelor’s degree.
Better paying occupations (ranging from $30,000 to over $60,000 annually) that will have hundreds of thousands of openings include bookkeepers, administrative assistants, first-line supervisors, operations managers, sales reps, carpenters, welders, electricians, auto service mechanics, truck drivers, maintenance and repair workers, police officers and correctional officers.
On the low end (paying around $20K), cashiers and retail salespersons top the list, followed by wait personnel, food preparation staff, janitors and cleaners.
Computers – Explosive growth in information technology is expected to create many openings for people who like working with computers. Openings in computer-related occupations for workers who don’t have a bachelor’s degree are expected to total about 444,000 through 2012. Industry certifications or computer experience are particularly important in this field, in part because you will often find yourself competing with college graduates for these jobs.
According to industry experts, people who don’t have a bachelor’s degree may find it easier to enter the follow specialties: computer support specialists, network and computer system administrators, and certain types of network systems and data communications analysts. Web masters, computer security professionals and local area network support staff are also expected to be in high demand.
Construction – A hard hat but no degree is required for construction work and other related trades. Five years ago the California Coalition for Construction in the Classroom (CCCC) was formed to promote the construction industry as a career option to parents, students, teachers and school administrators. CCCC sponsors job shadowing and is driving the campaign to reinvigorate California’s “shop” programs in high schools.
Due to the rising number of retirements and the booming construction sector, 240,000 new workers are forecast to be needed each year nationally for the next ten years. In a high-growth state like California, the need is particularly acute.
These are high-wage jobs. While the average California construction worker earns about $24 per hour, many journey-level construction workers earn over $70,000 per year.
Construction also offers free training. So rather than racking up tens of thousands of dollars in student loans, these programs actually pay workers to learn a trade, including carpentry, sheet metal work, electrical, plumbing and roofing.
You can learn more – and review a list of job skills required by various trades – by going to the CCCC website at constructcareers.org.
Education – Helping in the classroom also offers opportunity without requiring much training. Teacher assistants ($19K), and childcare workers ($16K), all receive short-term on-the-job training. Both those fields offer excellent opportunity. Not so for library technicians ($24K), which, while they only require on-the-job training, will only experience limited growth. The same is true for preschool teachers ($19K), who must have a vocational certificate.
Healthcare – Due to the aging of the population, the need for healthcare workers will be particularly acute for the foreseeable future. While many of these occupations do not require a bachelor’s degree, they may require special training often offered through community colleges or adult schools.
Topping the list of healthcare occupations are nursing aide, orderly and attendant, with more than a half-million openings occurring in this field through 1012. New hires typically receive on-the-job training. The same is true for home healthcare aides, which will experience almost as many openings.
Licensed vocational nurses, who must earn a vocational certificate, will also be in high demand. Many nursing programs offer the training, as do community colleges.
Medical assistants, who help with limited medical procedures and office activities, do not need certification and are typically trained on the job. The same is true for dental assistants.
Some of the better paying jobs in healthcare do require an AA degree. Those include radiologists ($39K), dental hygienists ($55K), and respiratory therapists ($40K).
Real Estate – No field offers quite so much opportunity while requiring a minimum of training. No college or even a high school diploma is required. Yes, you have to get your real estate license, but several private schools can help you qualify for that in short order. In fact, several real estate firms offer ongoing classes to help you break into the field.
The downside? Realtors only work on commission, and the income can be very erratic to begin with, so you’ll need some money in the bank. Beyond that, commissions can be sizable for the go-getters. Plan on long hours and weekend work to score that six-figure income.
Check these sources for more information on careers without college::
Bls.gov – Home page for the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Under Occupations, click on Occupational Outlook Handbook. To learn about a particular career, type in the title in the right corner and hit enter. You will get a detailed description of job duties and training required.
Bppve.ca.gov – California Bureau for Postsecondary and Vocational Education. State watchdog provides guidance and tips on how to select a reputable private school. As part of the state’s consumer affairs department, this agency advocates for students.
Carocp.org – California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs. Invaluable guide to free training programs offered to high school students and adults. Has a county-by-county link to local programs.
ConstructCareers.org – California Coalition for Construction in the Classroom. Helpful website provides guidance into various construction trades, as well as links to potential training including apprenticeships.
edd.ca.gov/emptran.htm – Find a variety of state-sponsored training programs that are often free for the taking.