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Pondering Post-Secondary Education

The New Norm Now Includes New Opportunity
By Chris Keaveney, CEO

At Meritize, we make it our business to spend considerable time studying the post-secondary education landscape in order to meet the funding needs of those looking to achieve professional success, particularly in the area of skills-based careers.

As we grow our business and work each day to increase opportunity for high-achieving folks looking to learn a skill and create a career, I am constantly amazed by the number and variety of unique and interesting skills-based career disciplines out there. And yet, so many of these jobs, which are consistently in high demand, aren’t on people’s radar as real, viable career options. I wonder whether young adults – and even older ones looking to get serious about a career – are educated (no pun intended) about all of the options available to them in the specialized job skills arena. And I also wonder how many more realize they may not even need a college degree to land these highly specialized jobs.

I share the opinion with many that the ‘trade’ sector has evolved considerably from being once defined by more traditional jobs – plumber, welder, nurse, electrician (which are all still very lucrative career options) to encompass a vast array of new jobs. Technology and the need for specifically trained professionals are ready-made opportunities that turn specialized education into lifelong careers. For example:

  • Medical laser therapy
  • Commercial diving
  • Power grid/infrastructure repair and maintenance
  • Heavy machinery operation (construction cranes)
  • Renewable energy construction (windmills, solar panels, etc.)

These fields all offer great employment opportunity with one key thing in common: they don’t require a four-year college degree. When you combine the in-demand factor of these jobs with the reality that they are attainable without having to attend a traditional university, you begin to see a profitable return on investment and a smart path for many.

I have three sons, two of whom are in high school, and the mantra they hear from their teachers and administrators is the same as it as been for decades: “after high school comes four-year college.” To a large extent, parents expect and support the need to have schools prepare their sons and daughters for college. It’s just how it’s always been done and they themselves are frequently unaware of other career options outside the realm of traditional university.

Of course, a four-year education is always a good thing and should be pursued if the resources and commitment are there. But one shouldn’t overlook the benefits of a career that requires specific education outside the college campus. It might be a six-month program or a three-year program; it might be an apprenticeship; or it might be an employer-based training offering, but pursuing education with a direct path to a specific job is often the most profitable and rewarding career option. Even college graduates or those who’ve attended college for a few years without graduating may decide the skills-based job route is the way to go.

As for me, I’m not yet sure what path my boys will take, but I do know I will expose them to the full spectrum of post-secondary options and help them make informed decisions on the kinds of jobs they want to pursue and the types of education required for these jobs. I plan to walk them through the ROI analysis (ignoring their rolling eyes and somewhat distracted focus) on a wide array of careers available to them to make sure that when they do choose a path, they are making an educated (pun intended) decision.

As more and more people zero in on the importance of connecting post secondary education specifically with answering this question: “What job do I want when I finish my education,” the growth of the skills-based sector will continue. And with that growth will come more opportunities for smart, motivated people to choose a direct path to employment with a shorter, and more economical, educational investment.