Jones: It’s Time to Normalize Trade Schools

Oct. 10, 2022

Amid student loan forgiveness, we should magnify trade education and opportunities.

Last month, I saw a Facebook post featuring a teenage boy in a university T-shirt. The post indicated that he was a high school junior, and, in the narrative, the parent gushed about how the boy made her so proud to the point of tears when he expressed to her his desire to attend a “University of” school to further his education after high school. The parent continued with how happy she was about his decision and elated about his future based on his choice. 

I paused after reading it and wondered if the son had told his mother he wanted to attend trade school to become an automotive technician, would the post have been published with the same overwhelming sense of pride or would it have never seen the light of day? 

Here's the data, folks. According to an April 18, 2022, article in Bloomberg, recent graduates of those “University of” schools are saddled with six-figure debt and more than 50% of these college graduates reportedly don't work in their field of study. Another 25% report only earning $30,000 per year while one in seven earned less than 15,000 per year.  

No, I'm not here to bash anyone who elected to attend a four-year university. I present data to reinforce the need to educate the public about the worthiness of trade schools and the high earning potential awaiting its graduates. I mean, how many of know someone (or are someone) who entered the trades after earning a bachelor’s degree because the trades were their first love? 

That brings us to this issue. You'll meet Chris Knuth, owner of Star Motors European Service in San Juan Capistrano, California, who founded a nonprofit called APAC ATI. Through his nonprofit, he has begun training people from all levels of society—college-educated people who prefer trades to cubicles, formerly incarcerated people, veterans, and more, to be of service to the auto care industry, which is awash in available, well-paying auto technician jobs. 

Mitch Moncur of Denny's Automotive, in Riverton, Utah, takes a similar approach with his in-house apprenticeship program. He targets high schoolers interested in automotive tech trades and gets them shop-ready by the time they graduate so they can go straight into the pros.  

As we navigate the lessons and ramifications of the current student loan forgiveness situation, I think now is the time to advocate for trades and trade schools. It's an educational path leading to noble careers any parent should take immense pride in for their children—and something worth sharing. 

About the Author

Chris Jones | Editor

Chris Jones is the editor of Ratchet+Wrench magazine and host of its companion podcast, Ratchet+Wrench Radio, a weekly show featuring automotive professionals across the auto care landscape.

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