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What is a Technical or Trade School?

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In recent years, there’s been a lot of talk in the educational field about the importance of trade schools, and how important it is to attract talented students to careers in the skilled trades. With all the focus on traditional college in the last 40 years, the US is seeing a serious shortage of trade professionals, and it shows. But College Consensus is doing our part by highlighting the best trade schools, and helping students learn what they’re missing.

What is a Trade School?

A trade school, also known as a technical or vocational school, combines classroom education and hands-on training to teach students how to become proficient in a manual or mechanical trade.

Students learn how to become electricians, plumbers, mechanics, HVAC installers, and tool and die makers to name a few of the careers taught in a trade school. Trade schools highlight the importance of vocational training for individuals who aren’t on a college degree track for any number of reasons, but still want to engage in a meaningful career that has strong earnings potential. 

When looking at exactly what is a trade school, you’ll find that your main options consist of private technical schools and community colleges with vocational training. Some community colleges enroll students when they’re still in high school in order to give them an opportunity to start employment upon graduation from high school. No matter what type of trade school you attend, you’ll wind up with valuable technical and/or trade skills that give you employment opportunities that you might not otherwise have with just a high school diploma. 

What’s a Trade?

A trade is sometimes called a blue-collar job as opposed to a white-collar job (and some trades have earned the name “new-collar job“). So, just what is a trade? A trade consists of having mechanical knowledge, engineering comprehension and skills, and the ability to work with tools to construct, manufacture or repair an item or object. Much is made about manufacturing jobs going overseas and leaving little behind in the U.S., but this trope ignores the fact that we still need people to repair cars, HVAC systems, airplanes, weld pipes and work on seagoing vessels. The importance of vocational training to ensure a steady supply of qualified individuals to perform these jobs and others like them can not be overstated. 

What Trades are There?

The trades are wide and varied. They cover everything from healthcare to computer technicians. If you’ve taken your car to a mechanic for repair, your mechanic is someone who’s in the automotive trade. An electrician who runs and repairs electrical systems in a house is someone who’s in the electrical trade. Here’s a list of some of the more well-known types of trades:

  • Cosmetologist
  • Airplane mechanic
  • Massage therapist
  • Plumber
  • Dental hygienist
  • Chef
  • Home inspector
  • Licensed practical nurse
  • Legal assistant

What Trade is Right for Me?

In the event you’ve decided that college is not for you, but you want to have some sort of education, the trades are a good choice. But that leaves you asking the question of “what trade is right for me?” The fact that there are multiple types of trades can leave you just as confused as trying to figure out what kind of career you should enter. The easiest place to start is to take an aptitude test that helps you uncover where your strengths lie. Working with a career counselor is also helpful when it comes to figuring out what trade is right for you. 

You need to take a look at your own skillsets when considering a trade. Are you good with your hands and find enjoyment in figuring out how things work? A mechanical trade takes advantage of those skills and helps you build on your innate talents. Not everyone can be a math whiz and some people have a hard time getting past algebra. The mechanical trades do require math skills, but the math used in jobs like plumbing, carpentry, and electrical are easily learned and applied. In the event you’re interested in a field of employment that involves helping people, the medical trades are an excellent option. You don’t have to spend years in medical school to start a career in healing.

One of the more favorable aspects of the trades is the fact that most trades have apprenticeships. An apprenticeship enables you to “earn while you learn” and get a feel for your chosen trade. Eventually you earn more money that’s commensurate with your experience and amount of time spent learning on the job.

What Trades Are in Demand?

Just about every type of trade is currently in demand due to more people going to college for professional degrees. There are fewer people entering the trades due to the perception that working a blue-collar job is a lower class of work. The fact of the matter is, the trades have high earning potential that can rival or even exceed the earnings of a white-collar job. You do have to accept the fact that the trades can be hard on the body, but if you take care of yourself, you can find yourself in a comfortable financial position over the course of your career.

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