By HANNAH FRARY
KENNESAW, Ga. – Middle-skill jobs such as welders, car mechanics and construction workers require more than a high school diploma and less than a bachelor’s degree and provide a foundation for middle-class America.
These jobs offer an alternative to conventional college education for high school graduates, and the cost of trade and vocational schools is less than the average college education.
A Kennesaw welding trade school, Georgia Trade School, provides students with a lifetime skill for $8,000 compared to the tens of thousands spent on a traditional degree at a university.
When a student pursues both a traditional college education, possibly with a business or engineering degree, and a trade school education, that individual has the potential to earn additional money.
“We have a name around here for those individuals — we call them millionaires,” said Ryan Blythe, executive director at Georgia Trade School.
Another trade businessman, Reid Millikan from Atomize Collision and Customs of Kennesaw, talked about the benefits of both attending a college and a trade school. Both are needed and the best way to stay current within an industry is to remain up-to-date with theories and technologies by attending both, he said.
These middle-level workers operate better alongside productive technologies than highly educated workers, allowing companies to elevate the individual’s wages faster than overall inflation, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Programs like Georgia Trade School assure students will receive their welding certification in 14 to 24 weeks, depending on the weekly hours the individual chooses. This schedule often includes charitable fabrication projects creating real world experience for the student.
Georgia Trade School “acknowledges the huge contributions that experienced welders have made to this industry and we are attempting to bridge that to our student population which is mostly comprised of 18 to 22 years old,” said Blythe.
The Department of Labor estimated a shortage of 250,000 welders by 2019.
One of Blythe’s goals is to take welding to potential middle-class workers and make welding more pertinent than before.
These trade job postings go unoccupied, as many Americans continue to be unemployed. If more collaboration between vocational educators and policymakers occurs, America can bridge the gap by increasing skilled and qualified candidates for these unfilled positions.
Since Georgia Trade School has cultivated more students, Blythe now directs more attention to community and government relations. Blythe and other leaders and educators of the welding industry promote a scope of possibilities to middle and high schools by acknowledging the gap and unfilled positions in the industry.
“We have targeted parents that are predisposed to send their children to college and shown them that this is a really good alternative,” said Blythe. “Our walls are lined with student success stories—mostly reproductions of articles that have appeared in the print media.”
Difficulties arise in trying to change the cultural mentality many have for college as the only viable option.
“You will always have naysayers who will discourage you but in the end, it is your life and professional dream,” said Blythe.