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Working in a trade isn't as attractive as it once was, but it is making a comeback

Posted at 2:22 PM, Jun 03, 2019

Working in a trade isn't as attractive as it once was, but it is making a comeback.

For decades, many students seeking higher education chose traditional four-year college degrees over working with their hands. But the rising cost of college mixed with massive student loan debt has some going to trade schools instead.

People such as Kyle Martin, an automotive technology student at Lincoln College of Technology.

"I'm not the type that's going to sit down for years and years and study," Martin said.

It will take him 13 months and cost around $32,000 to complete his program, an option he believes will pay off much better than a bachelor's degree.

"It's cost-efficient and it's a great use of your time. You can get in and out really fast," he said.

In and out and into the workforce, that is — making money while traditional students are still studying.

Does it make financial sense?

Auto mechanics earn an average salary of $43,000 per year, while four-year college grads have an average starting salary of $50,000. The numbers change drastically based on experience and ambition.

Welding instructor James Ramsey says there is big opportunity to make big money in the trades.

"You want to go out there and get your own truck and get your own rig ... that's when you're going to make the big bucks," Ramsey said. "After doing that for a couple years you don't even have to weld anymore. You can just hire some other guys to weld and you are just doing all the deals behind the scene."

Getting qualified blue-collar workers is a challenge of its own.

Dr. Kelly Moore of Lincoln College of Technology says while trade school enrollment is up for the past three years, there is still a shortage of students studying trades.

"The reason for that is because we spent so little time talking about the careers as an opportunity that we lost a generation," said Dr. Kelly Moore, Lincoln College of Technology.