Here are this week’s Life Pro Tips.
1. College isn’t the only way to start a good career. Apprenticeships, Trade Schools, and Military Training can be great alternatives in today’s world.
The price of four-year universities in the U.S., among other countries, is huge and growing. There are many situations where the degree is worth the cost, but not for everyone. Obviously, if you wish to be a doctor or lawyer, a college degree is inevitable.
If, however, your desired path isn’t so rigidly grounded in universities, or you just aren’t sure what you’d like to do, take some time to think about alternatives before applying to colleges.
To high school juniors and seniors:
Your parents/guardians might be pressuring you to go straight to college because that was practically a guarantee for a good life in their time, but things are different today. If you’re going to broach this subject with them, get your sources ready ahead of time. Here is a good overview, but you should find other data, analyses, and opinions before fighting that battle.
These jobs have been around for a long time, but baby boomers have been over-represented for decades. As that generation retires, demand for skilled trades will be a lot higher than it was twenty years ago. According to this article, 53% of skilled tradespeople are over the age of 45.
Is there any money in it?
There definitely can be. Unlike some college-bound fields, you won’t likely be making six figures right out the gate, if ever. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be worse off. Assuming you go the apprenticeship or military routes, you can be making money the day you start, and won’t have any crippling debt to deal with.
What are my options?
There are a ton of ways to start a career such as:
Apprenticeships are a great way for experienced tradespeople to pass their hands-on knowledge to pupils that will someday replace them. Apprentices will generally be paid very little at first, but the cheap labor is in exchange for valuable training. Once an apprentice is proficient enough to work on their own, they will generally be making a nice, middle-class wage.
A recent report from NPR took a look at how apprenticeships play a part in Germany’s industrial success. The US government is also pretty aware of the potential, even if they face challenges in funding programs. The federal program is here and you can take advantage of some of their resources in person by finding the nearest American Job Center
The federal government is definitely the only organization pushing apprenticeships. In a lot of cases, labor unions organize and administer apprenticeships and training. One example would be the IBEW for electricians, but there are a too many unions that vary from place to place. Searching for unions near your area may be a good place to start identifying other opportunities.
Trade Schools can be a good way to get the kind of classroom training you might expect from college, but much more focused and time/cost-efficient. Many community colleges offer trade programs that lead to certifications and associate’s degrees. There are also standalone schools that might specialize in a single trade, like welding. Job Corps is a national program that can be a good option if a person isn’t in a good position to pay for training.
Training doesn’t have to be years long though, especially in the arena of computer sciences, “boot camp” programs are becoming very popular. A computer programming boot camp might be a big expense for such a short program, but it’s much less expensive than a degree in computer science, and could give you enough tools to land a good job right away or even to work for yourself.
Military training can also be a great economic ladder. The pay and benefits are good from the start. Depending on the specialty, the training can be really valuable (and free). Plenty of employers offer some hiring preference to veterans.
Regarding benefits, the basic wage isn’t a lot higher than minimum wage, which is often the subject of salty memes. That is not the only income, though. In most cases, living expenses are taken care of, so no need to budget for food, housing, or utilities. That’s the bulk of what the working class is trying to stay on top of, so you could plausibly invest every dollar of pay you earn if you didn’t have a cell phone or car. Even then, if you are sensible, it would be easy to live below your means. Another huge benefit is free medical for the whole family. On the outside, that would cost a lot.
Regarding training, if you win the “job lottery” you could receive extensive training in a really valuable field. Some people can walk away from four years of service making over $100,000/yr. You could also be a bus driver. You don’t really get to choose, and that is the first big risk. Regarding lifestyle, it can be a great time.
2. If you’ve had the same internet service plan for a while, take a look at what your ISP’s current advertised plans are.
You may be “grandfathered in” on a slower, more expensive plan.
3. Before you stick your credit card in any reader, see if you can pull the reader off the machine.
Card scanners are showing up everywhere, make a habit of checking every time.
4. If you’re having trouble explaining something computer-related to your parents, instead of explaining it to them over to the phone, record yourself doing it and send them a video.
They’ll be able to follow along better since they see it happening and will save everyone a lot of frustration
5. If you’re alone and trying to find the correct breaker to do electrical work, plug a radio into the outlet where you need to work and turn it up all the way. When the music stops, you’ll know you’ve got the right breaker.
They make tools to do this, but this works in a pinch rather than walking back and forth.
Also, you should absolutely still test the outlet/fixture if it’s still hot or not.