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By: Claudia Raffay, Director of Marketing & Member Services
High school graduation is a landmark moment and a cause for celebration, but it also comes with a lot of uncertainty. For the first time, all high school graduates are welcomed to “the real world.” This means that major decisions must be made that can determine the direction of the rest of their lives.
For many students, this means moving on to college. It’s only a recent phenomenon that most students pursue a college education after graduating high school. In the past, it was rare for people to have the means to pursue higher education. While it seems great that college is more accessible, that is ignoring that many students go down that path without a clear career goal in mind and most must take out loans to afford their education. With college becoming more of a “default” path, millions of college graduates enter the workforce every year to find that a degree no longer helps them stand out to hiring managers like it once did.
On the flip side, we are facing a shortage of skilled professionals in the trades. Trade jobs, like lineworkers, electricians, plumbers, HVAC professionals, welders, and more, are a vital facet of our economy. They provide important services that only those with the correct training can perform.
The issue seems to stem in part from the trades becoming stigmatized among young people. With college becoming the norm, some students who may not feel college is the right fit for them can feel pressured into going anyway - simply because that is what is expected of them. This becomes more of an issue when you factor in the ever-increasing cost of a college education and the loans that come with it, with increasingly slimmer chances of landing a well-paying job after graduation.
Our students need to know that college is not the only path! Choosing trade school rather than college may be a better decision for some students. SREC started the “Trade Up” initiative to try and change the narrative of the trades being stigmatized in favor of college. The trades are skilled labor and are vital to keeping our modern society going. If your child is not sure what career path may be best for them, it is important to remind them that “trading up” is a valid option that can bring with it technical expertise, financial security, and personal satisfaction.
If your child chooses to go to trade school, they will get specialized instruction in their field of choice. Trade school provides the benefit of both hands-on experience and classroom instruction to make sure students are prepared for their future career. Following graduation, they will have a skillset that is in-demand by employers, making them more hirable. In addition, their starting salary is likely going to be higher than that of the majority of college graduates.
To support students who want to pursue the trades, Sussex Rural Electric Cooperative offers up to two scholarships each year. If you are a member of SREC and your child is a high school senior planning to attend trade school or a certification program, this is the scholarship for them!
The SREC Trade School Scholarship awards up to two students with a $2,000 scholarship to put towards their trade education. Whether they plan to be an electrician, a lineman, or one of the many other professionals in the trades, Sussex Rural Electric Cooperative can help them get started. Applications are due by March 7, 2023, so make sure they act fast! You can find all the details of this application and our other awards at www.sussexrec.com/scholarships.