PNW Business News has investigated the skyrocketing college costs that have priced millions of graduates out of the traditional path to the American Dream. Seventy percent of students now graduate with loans of over $37,000. Students who want to make a living wage are increasingly exploring other avenues beyond Uber,Lyft or minimum wage jobs.
While personalities like Mike Rowe, of Dirty Jobs, helped reinvigorate the vocation versus profession debate, the real question is whether there is a lucrative future in blue collar professions or if the high life is confined to a white collar job ladder.
Dirty jobs highlighted labor jobs that keep the economy humming and suggests there is more than one path to financial success. Finding that path is what we set out to do.
In our research we found, increasingly, students are choosing vocational schools over pricey college degrees that don’t guarantee employment after graduation. They are doing so with the hope of not only making a living wage, but a great lifestyle as well. Organizations like Vocational Pathways (http://www.youthguarantee.net.nz/vocational-pathways) identify various vocation routes for students to explore. One of routes is specifically for creatives. Vocations and trades were not traditionally associated with art, design and creativity. Today, the landscape has shifted.
To witness the shift toward vocational or tech ‘careers,’ look no further than Summit Salon Academy in Portland or Compass Courses in Edmonds, Washington.
For Chris Huffstutter, of Summit Salon Academy of Portland, the vocation versus profession distinction is increasingly overshadowed by two questions: How much can I earn and how much do I enjoy what I do?
To find Summit Salon Academy of Portland, many students followed online reviews touting the company’s placement rate. Summit Salon Academy of Portland placed 76% of their graduates in 2016 within 60 days of graduation, a success rate Huffsutter said is unmatched in vocational schools.
The average income of stylists in Oregon is $26,650 (2015) but Summit Salon Grads working at Annastasia Salon have an average income of $44,265.
Summit Salon Grads often work choice hours and bring home $60,000-$80,000 per year.
Huffstutter said Summit Salon Academy will do whatever is necessary to help a student win, adding: “We sweeten the deal by paying for state board testing. We teach students how to speak the salon language by surrounding them with professionals who have been in the industry for years. When it’s over, we want them to be employed and have clients. What college program does that?”
Researchers at University of California—Davis looked at the career and technical training programs offered by California’s community colleges – the largest community college system in the country, with 2.6 million students. They found vocational certificates and degrees have grown 50 percent in the last 20 years.
If you are open to a little more adventure, or just have a hair phobia, going to a maritime tech school is a great option. The maritime industry is growing rapidly, but the number of professional are shrinking.
According to Julie Keim, owner of Compass Courses in Edmonds, Washington, too many people are retiring and not enough young people are getting involved.
Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, has made it a priority to research the state’s maritime sector and start some programs to get young people involved in maritime jobs. And school counselors are increasingly being made aware of vocational opportunities.
Parents, themselves key decision makers in the educational process, love the vocational approach as well because it helps students get on their feet faster with income that allows for independent living.
One common denominator between successful tech schools is tapping into the desire for meaning millennials are looking for at work. Summit Salon Academy addresses those concerns by beginning their classes with one question: ‘What difference will you make in the world?’ That is a message that resonates with today’s students and so does a vocational path to the American Dream.