High school students looking to the future are often urged to pursue a traditional college education, but recent trends display an increased interest in alternatives such as vocational school, online courses, and apprenticeships. Even options like working while travelling, starting a business, and joining the military combine appealing post-secondary experiences with money-making opportunities.
Winnetonka High School is an award-winning institution that is part of the North Kansas City School District. Winnetonka High School Principal Dr. Edward Tate discussed some of the increasingly popular alternatives to a typical college education and what makes them so attractive and beneficial for students now.
Considering a Vocational or Trade School
Trade schools are picking up popularity as many students find the sizable price tag on four-year colleges challenging. These trade schools provide education without the same cost or time commitment. While students do not leave with a four-year degree, they do receive real-world training and industry credentials that are readily applicable to a well-paying job.
Some fields include:
- Culinary arts
- Law enforcement
- Animal care
This approach to education tends to offer more limited scholarship opportunities, but students that can afford the initial costs save time and money over the longer term. Students are also able to graduate and start working sooner, and many of these fields are actively searching for qualified employees, according to Winnetonka High School Principal Dr. Edward Tate.
Free and Paid Online Resources and Certifications
Students can take advantage of resources and courses online at places like Udemy, Skillshare or LinkedIn Learning. These are more accessible when compared to traditional college courses, and students can move through them independently at a pace conducive to their learning style.
Online courses mesh well with busy or unpredictable schedules, so students can work and take care of other responsibilities while still moving forward in their education.
Courses cover the entire spectrum of desirable skills wanted by employers today, and a few of the most popular include:
- Marketing and advertising
- Video production
- Music production
- User experience
Since these education platforms cover so many learning topics, students are free to hone in on the exact skill sets they need for their desired career instead of focusing on a broader degree path. Many courses also provide a certification upon completion that can be displayed on resumes.
Securing an Apprenticeship
Winnetonka High School Principal Dr. Edward Tate explains that apprenticeships provide experience in a hands-on way. Going this route provides students opportunities to work with mentors directly and learn the “trade secrets” that be a challenge for amateurs to acquire on their own. Students also learn to complete tasks on schedule and in line with industry and regulatory standards.
Employers that offer apprenticeships often include:
Apprenticeships in these fields not only lead to gainful employment in a skilled position, but many could eventually start their own businesses.
The Digital Nomad
Those seeking adventure often look to combine work with travel. Many pursuing this path create work around their desire to get out and see the world through blogs and photography.
Many freelance workers are drawn in by the lifestyle of the digital nomad. Because they only need internet access and suitable devices, careers involving content writing, graphic design, and programming are popular among this set.
Winnetonka High School notes that many who decide to travel the world instead of attending college can find paid opportunities to teach English as a foreign language (TEFL). A country may require a degree to do this, but there are also ways to TEFL without one.
Starting a Business
Students that already have a business idea or a hobby can work on developing it into a viable career. In many cases, the skills required might already be possessed by the aspiring entrepreneur, or the barriers to entry for that business might be low, so the major hurdle to cross is creating an effective business plan.
This college-alternative does involves more risk, but it attracts those that are entrepreneurially-minded. As the business grows, so too will the skill set of the new entrepreneur, as the typical business owner generally has to learn something about every aspect of the business, including accounting, marketing, human resources, and management.
Careers in the Military
A long-standing college alternative that many choose to explore is joining the military, according to Winnetonka High School Principal Dr. Edward Tate. There are ultimately thousands of positions available in the military itself, mirroring fields in the civilian world. Opportunities differ depending on factors like military branch, location, and rank.
Military service helps develop skills that look attractive on applications, such as teamwork, organization, and working under pressure. Many military members also receive college credit for their experience, and students can get assistance covering college costs if they decide to pursue a four-year education later in life.
Joining the military provides access to training programs that can apply to nearly any job, including technical work and human resources. There is also opportunity to move up in rank and access full careers within the military.
While a traditional 4-year college remains a suitable choice for many, the opportunities available outside that scope are more plentiful than ever thanks to increased online educational platforms.
Winnetonka High School Principal Dr. Edward Tate explains that these alternatives to college allow students to continue growing in ways that better fit their interests and situation. Whether students choose a path of learning or jump straight into the workforce, they need to be aware that there is more than one way to achieve a fulfilling career.