Home » Don’t Be Afraid To Go To A Trade School And Become America’s Next Mechanics And Electricians: COTD

Don’t Be Afraid To Go To A Trade School And Become America’s Next Mechanics And Electricians: COTD


When you’re young and still in grade school, or heck, even when you’re an adult, you will find yourself facing the question of what to do with your future. Where do you go? What will you do? When making a decision, don’t be afraid to consider a trade school. There are a lot of fun and gratifying careers out there that do not require dropping tons of funds at a typical university. Want to help build America? Become a welder! Want to fly a plane, drive a train, or fix cars? There are schools for all of that stuff!

One day, we might even write about you and how you’re one of the folks solving America’s EV infrastructure problems.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Today’s COTD winner is Shop-Teacher, a good friend and wise vocational teacher, who offers sage advice:

As a vocational teacher, my response to that headline is: No shit Sherlock! We also don’t have enough plumbers, enough carpenters, enough welders, enough machinists, enough sheet metal workers, enough mechanics … OH, BUT EVERYBODY NEEDS TO GO TO COLLEGE! And put a fucking mortgage worth of debt on your back that you can never get out of to do it, too.

I wish Shop-Teacher’s warning wasn’t so sadly true. I racked up about $50,000 in student loans to become an IT Systems Administrator (or that’s what my program said I’d become), just to spend years being miserable writing Java code for pay that couldn’t cover both the student loans and my living expenses. Now, I have years of IT learning and experience rattling around in my brain doing nothing.

My wife got it worse. She racked up over $200,000 in student loans and spent years going through the process to become an attorney. But the kind of law she does never brings in enough money to even begin paying that debt down. There’s no money in saving a poor person from an illegal eviction.


With that said, Drew offers a story that shows college isn’t always bad:

As someone who went to college, got a degree, entered the workforce, went back for grad school, then ended up in a job that would be better served by trade school, I don’t feel exactly betrayed by the push for college. A well-rounded education is good, and college provides a good chunk of that. I’d love to see college and trade school work in tandem (and not put either out of reach of anyone). And not just one way. You want a sociology degree? Cool, you still need a class or two of trade school pre-reqs. Becoming an electrician? Sure, and you’ll still need an English composition class and maybe something like a philosophy class. Formal logic is a good choice, but you can choose ethics or something if you prefer.

Having well-rounded people with technical skills supplemented by other education or whatever course of education supplemented by technical skills will help people understand each other and help students actually choose a path that works for them, whether a trade or whatever else.

(This, of course, could be colored by the fact that I work with a boiler technician who is fantastic at his job and also an accomplished translator of ancient Hebrew texts. He’s one of the best people I’ve ever worked with, and being well-rounded seems to be part of that.)

The good news is that you do learn some of the above in trade schools. At the trade school I went to, half of my classes had nothing to do with a future in IT work, but included things like History and English.

Have a great evening, everyone!

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9 months ago

I did the college thing, graduated with both Aero and Mechanical Engineering degrees. Took the job offered during recuitment time. Didn’t even know what a Manufacturing Engineer was, but that is what the job was. Turned out to be a great position for me having both mechanical skills taking things apart and mostly putting them back together starting as a kid. Most Mfg Engrs start out as a technician in the shop and work up to being the Mfg Engr. Since I had both mechanical skills plus engineering schooling, that wide-ranging skillset served me well thus my encouraging folks to get wide ranging skills for they complement each other. Through the MfgEngr job I also gained software skills when we merged different writing applications into one, so that lead me into software technical writing. Now when I edit technical documents I have a better understanding of both the technical terms and concepts being used, I can tell whether they are accurate and applicable to the FAA certification documents we review. Since I had experience with welding and nondestructive testing, I can review those process documents and provide meaningful feedback to the authors. Again, a wide ranging skillset comes in handy. My compatriots in Tech Writing are usually English majors, so their lack of technical background slows down their editing trying to figure out what is being discussed at a deep technical level.

Mantis Toboggan, MD
Mantis Toboggan, MD
9 months ago

I don’t know how it is in shop/factory trades but in construction you really want to be the boss. I never had any burning desire to own my own business but I did have a pretty strong need for my income not to remain stagnant for the rest of my life.

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