College vs Trade School: Advising Young People on a Career Path

Spiritual Advice and Wisdom for Living Your Best Life from Dr. Genie

Sometimes even spiritual advisors get triggered too. And yes, something triggered me yesterday and I want to share my thoughts on the subject.

Why College is still vital in our world today.

This might seem like a strange topic for a spiritualist to write about – the benefits of going to college. The truth is that college has a tremendous impact on one’s spiritual beliefs, spirituality and connection to spirit. 

  • Students often find their path and passion at university– that is spiritual.
  • Students meet people of other faiths and backgrounds and expand their world perception – that is spiritual.
  • Students take courses that teach an appreciation of areas of life they had perhaps not previously been exposed – that is spiritual.
  • Students learn to become more independent and self-sufficient – that is spiritual.
  • Students learn to process differing opinions and grow their own ability to reason – that is spiritual.
  • Students gain emotional maturity and a higher emotional IQ when experiencing new thoughts and ideas even if they disagree  – that is spiritual.
  • Students gain a respect for those unlike themselves and see “others” on common ground – that is spiritual.
  • Students make the greatest leap in growth and development during college years second only to their infancy. Who they will be the rest of their lives is largely tied to the young adult years – this is absolutely spiritual.

In-person college attendance is at a precipice.

During the pandemic, online learning was suddenly legitimized.  Where before online certifications and degrees were taken less seriously, we now know that online learning can be competent and successful. It’s also cheaper considering room and board costs are greatly lowered.  (College towns are the most expensive places to live!) But, it is also isolating and prohibitive to growth and maturity.

There is also fraction of society who fear “liberal indoctrination”.  That indoctrination is the list above – young people learning to think for themselves and draw their own conclusions about life.  And millions of Americans are fearful that their children will grow up and think differently than they do. 

Also, the rise in costs to attend college has been staggering over the past decade.  While getting into college and funding your four years is easier than ever with federal loans, the student loan debt burden is astronomical.  The available jobs for many degree earners are absent without further training, experience, or advanced degrees.  Graduates are not able to pay their loans once they graduate.  This causes students to choose degree programs where they can earn money – not where their passion and skills would take them.  The desire to pursue their career field post graduation is doused.

We are making college antithetical to spiritual growth. 

My brother and I recently had a brief social media discussion about pushing more young people to trade schools versus college.  I was quite defensive about discouraging young people from attending college.  I was especially triggered when another person commented, “young people just don’t want to get their hands dirty anymore.”

There was so much hate and spiritual disconnect in that statement – from a man who graduated from university telling young people that going to college means you think you are uppity and too good for a job in the trades. 

The nerve. (yes, I was way triggered.)

But let me explain…

Trade schools are so vital to our communities – I mean, if we want houses built and water lines upgraded, and electricity in our homes – we need young people trained in these skilled professions.  We need salon stylists.  We need nursing assistants.  We need competent people providing vital services to our communities. 

No argument there.  They are good paying jobs. They can lead to business ownership. There are lots of people who love what they do in trade professions.

The problem with trade school – in a poor rural state like I live in – access to the training is not simple. 

Trade schools in my state consist of a few business schools, a couple massage and cosmetology training centers and several regional Vo-Tech training programs attached to high schools programs.  They are not capable of mass enrollment like college.  Trade schools are far and few.  Reliable transportation is necessary to attend.  (Unlike colleges that provide some sort of public transportation – vans and busses – around campus and housing can be found within walking distance to class.)

There just aren’t that many trade schools or that many varieties in what trade you can learn.  If you have to move to go to your chosen trade school – it kind of defeats the whole “we need these folks in our local communities” argument.

Apprenticeships are also hard to come by.  You must know someone or be someone to get into a program.  They don’t advertise these things because there are so few spots available.  This means that the chronically poor, minorities, women, and other discriminated against people have no chance of being apprenticed – not in rural small-town America.  Yes. My family experienced this personally.

Colleges often offer to ease this lack of availability by offering certification programs in areas of trade.  These can cost anywhere from $900 – $2400 per course with 4 or 5 courses normally required for certifications.   The cost varies depending on what college you are attending – a small town college or the state’s flagship university.  These certifications do not qualify for federal financial aid because they are not degree programs and are usually not studied full time. 

How does a young person in one of the poorest states in the country gain access to training in the trades when there are few places to attend, even fewer choices to study, and far fewer ways to finance attendance?

It’s not easy and MOST young people do not have access to trade school or skill training- especially women and minorities who are the lowest earning people in our society. 

And this is soul crushing.  Especially when college educated adults are telling them they are wrong for considering college over trade school. 


So, I was so put off by the discussion and the implications of the statements that we should push more students to trade school and that college bound young people are people who just don’t want to get their hands dirty. 

Because I know that the underlying motivation for those comments is fear.  And fear is a disconnect from love.  Fear is a disconnect from spirit. 

There is a rising fear in sending young people to “liberal utopias” on college campuses. 

There is a fear that we might have to start paying higher wages to EVERYONE.

There is a fear that more highly educated people means that a higher education is worth less. 

There is a fear that the masses of young people are not willing to stay in the station in life in which they were born. 

There is a fear of minorities and women being qualified for top jobs.

There is a fear that we will send our kids off to college and they will come back home not believing everything we taught them. 

Fear causes someone to tell a young person they must go to trade school or else they wont earn money or that they will look weak and lazy.

Are there problems with our college education system?  Absolutely.  The lack of experience gained in real world use of what they’ve learned so they are immediately employable is a problem.  The number of non-degree credit requirements is a problem.  The skyrocketing costs to attend is a problem. 


But what isn’t a problem with college is availability and access – not anymore.  And this makes some people uncomfortable.  This makes some people afraid. 


Fear.

It is a destroyer of dreams.  It kills passions.  It disconnects the soul. 

If a young person walked into my office and said to me, “I don’t know what I want to be in life,” the very last things I would ask them would be “what does society need you to be” or “how much money do you want to make.”   Those wouldn’t even be my last things – they wouldn’t be questions at all.

This is what I would ask…

What do you do for fun?

What would you love in your life more than anything else?

If you could solve one problem in the world what would it be?

If time, education, and money were not a problem – where would you be and what would you be doing?

See, telling kids they need to go to trade school because it’s good money and they would be employable and in less debt than the college route is also saying – kill your soul and stuff it down into the depths of your subconscious and forget about what you dream of doing with your life.  Money is all that matters. 

And I wonder if the man who said that people don’t want to get their hands dirty anymore would advise his own children to kill their dreams because money is all that matters?

If you love to build houses – go to trade school or find an apprenticeship if you are able.  Follow that passion. 

If you dig electricity – go to trade school or find an apprenticeship if you are able.  Do a job you love.

If you enjoy the salon and creating beautiful moments for others in their hair, makeup, and nail styling – learn cosmetology. 

If you would love to be an event planner to help others have the greatest and most memorable weddings and birthdays and charity balls and special occasions – then follow your love and enroll in hospitality school. 

Want to live your dream life and open your own business with any of these trades? 

A business course at a local college would be helpful.  Having the writing competence that comes with college English courses to compose a business plan and apply for small business funding would be helpful.  I’m married to someone who deals with business taxes, and I can tell you that basic accounting and tax filing are vital skills that tons of small businesses lack. A business accounting class or business math class are helpful to opening your own business. 

If you don’t know how to negotiate or speak to other people with differing opinions or from different backgrounds you might have a hard time finding a consistent client base.  How about basic psychology to understand marketing to your clients? Can you write an ad for your company or produce social media content?

Businesses like truck drivers, home remodel companies, independent contractors, salon owners, day care owners – they all get in trouble and fail because they do not possess the basic academic skills required to run a successful business.

They also fail because people go into careers they don’t love and don’t care about to satisfy the desires of other people.  


The questions shouldn’t be “what kind of education does society need you to do or what path should you take that would make me feel more comfortable about my place in the world” when advising young people on their future. 

It should be “what are your dreams and passions and natural skills.”

Period.  That’s it. 

Dr. Genie

Because when a person graduates from college or a trade school with a degree or certification in a career that they love – they will find a way to make money at it.  They will find a way to do the job they dream of. 

Your fear doesn’t get to be part of the equation.

They don’t have to give up their dreams for your comfort. 

It’s not on their shoulders to make your life what you want it to be.

Why don’t you go to trade school if you think the community is lacking tradespeople?

Because it’s not what you wanted to do with YOUR life. 

But you get to say how others choose to spend theirs? You get to shame those who choose college after that was the route you took?

What privilege to think you have such control over the lives of others. 

Yes. Using your privilege to control others is a huge trigger for me.

So my final point to the disconnected gent:

There are lots of college degrees where people get their hands dirty…

Nursing

Engineering

Earth Sciences

Any Sciences

Teaching

Any job in the medical profession

Forestry

.. and so on…


And lets recognize the largest trade school in the country…

The US Department of Defense. Where young men and women offer their very lives for a chance at a career and the ability to live their dreams after they are out.


Advise your young people wisely. Allow them to choose their own path. Give them the free-will they were born with to explore all their options without shame or guilt or responsibility to you. This freedom will bloom into long-term success and spiritual growth.

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