Attending a four-year college is still considered the be-all and all-end for many of today’s high school students, and trade schools across the country are feeling the effects of this mentality. This is a shame, considering the huge need for skilled workers in many different trade fields. Carpenters, construction workers, electricians, nurses, plumbers, machinists, and fabricators among many others, are all in high demand across the United States.
Here in Lancaster County, PA. — home to the Astro Machine Works team — the Lancaster County Career & Technology Center (LCCTC) helps prepare students for rewarding careers in various trade disciplines. While career and tech education initiatives continue to rise in popularity here, community and school leaders say there still aren’t enough students enrolling to meet the demands of the job market.
Cathy Rychalsky, executive director of the Lancaster County Workforce Development Board, stresses the importance of aligning course offerings with the specific needs of the local workforce. Parents, educators, and counselors, she says, should take this on as a joint effort, guiding and supporting students as they seek career training and education that fits with their skills and interests, as well as the needs of the job market.
Trade Jobs in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania, in particular, is among several states placing heavy focus on initiatives to increase the number of students attending career training and technical high schools. And for good reason — in Lancaster County, Penn., entry-level workers in high-demand trade occupations can earn up to $76,000 a year, and experienced workers often earn six-figure salaries.
Despite these impressive numbers, trade jobs are still thought by many to be low paying relative to the labor they demand. Perhaps it’s for this reason that most students in Lancaster County, PA., opt to attend four-year colleges after high school. But many students, especially those who are low-income or underserved, are missing out on some great opportunities in stable, well-paying trades.
Signs of Growth in Trade Jobs
At Lancaster County CTC, school officials say enrollment has increased by about 10% over the past five years, outpacing surrounding counties’ schools, with the exception of Chester County Technical College High School and Lebanon County CTC. This seems to show that people are beginning to recognize the advantages of obtaining career and technical education.
And the trend isn’t just contained to Lancaster County, Penn. High Schools across the country are focusing their efforts on career and technical education. Last year, 49 states enacted a total of 241 policies to support trade education and training, according to the advocacy group the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE).
As today’s younger generations begin to consider the declining value of a college degree — and the rising costs of tuition and student debt — trade education is coming more and more to the forefront. And with low employment rates and a strong job market worsening the growing skills gap, those with technical and trade training stand to benefit greatly from today’s shifting landscape.
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