When considering what to do after high school, trade or technical schools are often overlooked. However, with lower tuition costs, no dorm rooms and less time in school, you can save a significant amount of money while setting yourself up for a solid career.
And the demand for skilled workers has never been higher; in fact, there’s a significant shortage in the trade workforce. As of 2012, more than half of skilled trade workers were nearing retirement age. In Orlando, the workforce shortage detriment is a major issue; from the I-4 Ultimate Project to other infrastructure initiatives, finding employees has been difficult. By pursuing a trade and going to a two-year school or trade program, you can set yourself up for a lucrative career. For example, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- Plumbers have an average salary of over $50,000 a year.
- Electricians average nearly $52,000 a year
- Heating and Air Conditioning Installers make over $45,000 a year.
All three fields—and trade industries as a whole—have above average demand for workers, which is expected to continue until at least 2020. That means that trade work is an excellent way to ensure job security and a solid income.
However, finding the funds for trade school can be more difficult than for a four-year degree. Vocational schools have lower costs and less fiscal need, so there is less federal assistance available. But that doesn’t mean you’re stuck paying for trade school yourself. There are many different options available to help manage the cost.
If you’re plan on going to attend a trade school, you should still complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at www.fafsa.ed.gov. In some cases, you may be eligible for grants or the Trade Adjustment Assistance program. Due to the labor shortage and high demand in certain areas, there are programs and incentives in place to help potential workers transition into the field. However, to qualify, the trade school you attend must be accredited by the U.S. Department of Education.
For jobs that require on-the-job training, students may be able to cut down their costs by becoming an apprentice. Some programs combine training with real-life experience, so a portion of the tuition is covered and you have a job during the program.
In Orlando, the I-4 Ultimate Project hired 250 unskilled workers to train on the job because they could not find enough qualified workers. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has actively promoted apprenticeships to potential workers to fill the gap. To find out more, you can contact FDOT or your local labor union.
If federal loans are not enough to cover the cost of tuition, private loans are a viable option. Previously, private lenders did not often give out loans to trade school students, but that’s beginning to change.
“Private lending institutions know the value of skilled labor and are designing loan packages specifically designed to meet the needs of trade students,” said Nate Matherson, CEO of LendEDU, a lending marketplace where borrowers can compare their options. “Career training loans have competitive interest rates and can be used for all of your education expenses.”
One such loan package is Sallie Mae’s Career Training Smart Option Loans, which covers the cost of attending a non-degree school like a technical college or trade school. While you should always be cautious and limit how much debt you take on when it comes to student loans—both federal or private—they can be a useful alternative when you need the funds for your education.
School-Specific Grants and Scholarships
Valencia College was one of five schools in Orlando to receive grants to train students for skilled trades. With the $2.5 million in funds, Valencia is working with area employers like Lockheed Martin, Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems and others to ensure attendees get the training they need to succeed and transition into a full-time job. At Valencia College and other schools, there are independent scholarships available to help pay for tuition as well.
With the shortage of trade workers, the demand for trade laborers will continue to grow. By choosing a profession that suits your interests and skills, you can build a successful and sustainable career. Examine all of your options to pay for trade school so that you can minimize your debt while covering your education expenses.