I’ll never forget the day my uncle and I emerged from the Squirrel Hill Tunnel in Pittsburgh. Seeing that skyline burst forth was a magical experience. As he navigated the truck through the streets in search of my college apartment complex, I was awestricken by the beauty of the city I would call home for the next several years.
Being young and far away from home was exciting and scary. I was in an unfamiliar city hundreds of miles from home living with unfamiliar people—one from New Jersey and the other from Ohio. Once I finally settled in—it took me six months to get used to lots of rainy days and overcast skies for weeks on end—Pittsburg became my home and a place where I earned my education, made incredible friendships that I have to this day, and is a place I remain closely connected to at heart.
Being a product of the ‘90s where every parent pushed four-year college educations on their children, I was the anomaly. I started at community college and then transferred into art school. I learned it was best to harness the talent I had, refine it, graduate and go to work, which I was eager to do. To this day, I have no regrets about my choice. I’ve learned that in the real-world employers say they want certain educational requirements but will often choose experience when it makes the most sense. I’m in no way disregarding four-year colleges; I embrace them as necessary institutions, but as our present digital age and COVID have taught us, we need a well-rounded workforce in America comprised of those who have associate degrees, certifications and trade school educations, too. Don’t believe me? Call for a plumber. Inquire about a pressing HVAC need. Get an estimate on a major auto repair. You’ll get waitlisted. Something else that most don’t know is that some of these trades command six-figure salaries. Our kids will be just fine turning wrenches and owning heating and air companies.
All of that brings us to this issue, where we’ll take a glimpse at trade schools and a two-year college. We’ll discuss the impact COVID and the economy have had on interest and enrollment in these learning institutions.
Today, we can see more than ever that an educated workforce—no matter where that education is earned—matters to our future sustainability. As parents of Gen Z kids—where the possibilities include YouTube, Twitch, social media and eSports—it’s wise to stay open. My mother hated video games, but now people are paid amazing salaries to play them professionally. It’s not about us. It’s about them. Our kids have to carve their own paths. It’s our job to coach them to success on their terms, even if it doesn’t look like what we envisioned the day we held them in the hospital. Embrace them just the same.