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Post High School Paths to the World of Work

Once you have that high school diploma (or GED) in your hand there are decisions that must be made. Choices seem to boil down to: straight to the world or work, college or university, vocational school, military, or into the trades (apprenticeship). If you already know you want to investigate an apprenticeship in the trades check these pages for links to information about apprenticeships in a variety of construction trades.


Making the decision - links for the pros and Cons

  • Straight to the World of Work
  • College or University
  • Vocational School/Two year College
  • Video: Apprenticeship Better ...
  • Military
  • Apprenticeships
  • Straight to the World of Work: If you want to bypass any further education you will want to head straight to the workforce. Most available jobs are in the service industry: restaurants, sales, and so forth.

    College or University: This is a good choice if you have a specific career in mind, and if the structure of a formal classroom was a good fit in terms of your learning style. The cost of a college education is rising every year. The average cost ANNUALLY for study at a two-year college is calculated at $12,000. (Total of $24,000 for a two-year program - generally vocational in type.); Cost per year at a public four-year college/university is $18,000 (or a total of $72,000 for the four-year degree). Private schools range in cost as high as $35,000 per year. Few academic scholarships are offered for the general student body. Athletic scholarships are available as are need based scholarships but most students find that grants are woefully inadequate and difficult to obtain if you come from a middle class family with no special circumstances. Average debt of a graduate from college/university generally exceeds $25,000- some graduate from a four year college with as much as $100,000 in debt. The Detroit Free Press shares some statistics in an article: Crushed by College Debt...

    Vocational School/Two year College: This option prepares students for a special job such as a nurses aid, floral designer, veterinarian tech, and other such careers. Generally students opting for this career path will attend a specialized vocational school, i.e. cosmetology college, mechanics classes. Some of these fields do use some hands-on activities but many are taught with an academic structure similar to those utilized in secondary schools and college and universities.

    Apprenticeship better than college for some


    College or university studies are not for everyone and you should assess whether it is for YOU. Neither is Vocational training for everyone as the learning structure in these programs is patterned largely after the traditional academic model. If you had difficulty sitting still in the class room - consider your choices carefully.

    Military: This is a choice that the rest of us honor and appreciate. Those who spend a few years or many years serving our country gain many skills that translate into the construction fields. If you make the choice to volunteer for the military service you will earn educational money that can be used to augment your early months of apprenticeship study. Those educational funds and your skills will provide you with all you need to transition into an apprenticeship upon your return to civilian life. When you are ready visit our veterans page and find out about the opportunities that will be waiting for you.

    The Choice We are All About - Trade School - Apprenticeships in the Union Construction Trades

    What is it?
    Trade school is where you go to learn a trade or craft. In trade school you study to become skilled in a trade such as; roofer, plumber, carpenter, mason, drywaller, sheet metal worker, and so forth. You enter into a program where you learn the skills hands on, become an apprentice in a specified trade and eventually take a test - usually both written and practical - to become a full journeyman in that field.

    Union Apprenticeships are funded by the signatory contractors and local union members who contribute to a fund that supports training for apprentices and for continuing update learning for current journeypersons. Union apprentices graduate as a journeyman with no debt for their education.

    hard hat

    Is an apprenticeship right for you? Ask yourself these questions:

    1. Do you thrive in a hands-on learning environment?
    2. Do you have an interest in a trade?
    3. Did you take basic courses while in high school? Math, industrial tech, and other related courses?
    4. Do you enjoy physical work?
    5. Do you enjoy a mental challenge?

    Completing an apprenticeship can take anywhere from 3-5 years, depending on the trade you choose. Once you have completed your class work and have clocked a specified number of work/experience, you will become a journeyman. Remember not only will you get paid while you work, but your education is provided for you by the union and its signatory contractors. Right now there is a serious shortage in trades workers, across the United States, making most union trades a competitively well-paid career choice. Work "in the trades" is one of the better paying career choices in the job market.

    A Final Word: A career in a trade pays very well, is mentally stimulating, physically demanding, and each day is not ever the same as the last. If you want a career that will never grow dull — and provide you a stable, well-paying life-long career, a career in the trades may be the perfect career for you.

    The American Labor Movement has consistently demonstrated its devotion to the public interest. It is, and has been, good for all America." ~ John F. Kennedy

    Contact information for the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City Building Trades Council may be found on the CRICBT Council's contact page.
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