Skipping College

My background as a writer compels me to spend a lot of time on the flip side as a reader. Mornings almost always start out with a two-hour reading session, mostly of news publications. (I’m retired, so I have the time.)

More and more, my morning readings come across information detailing the rewards of trade careers against the downsides of attending college. Most recent was an article in the June 17, 2024, opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal. It was written by a recent technical school graduate named Cole Kelley and titled “Why I Skipped College to Be an HVAC Tech.”

Copyright law prohibits me from repeating the entire essay here. But a “fair use” provision of copyrights does enable me to share a few excerpts. Here are some key observations by Mr. Kelley.

    • ”I’ve always liked building things with my hands, not sitting in an office developing plans or considering theories. So I decided to become an HVAC technician. I do what I love—and I’ve found that I can make a more than livable wage.”
    • “I’m not alone in this turn away from university schooling. There’s increasing skepticism about the financial return of a college education, and enrollment in vocational-focused community colleges rose 16% last year.”
    • “On an HVAC job, I balance hands-on labor and intellectual challenges in everything from mapping out installations to problem-solving when something goes wrong. A healthy economy needs people to do these jobs. Massachusetts, my home state, faced a shortage of around 160,000 skilled workers in 2022.”
    • “As I start my career, I’m considering how I can become a homeowner before I’m 25. My college-bound friends will follow years behind, as they spend large chunks of their paychecks on school debt.”

Amen, Mr. Kelley. Congratulations on your budding career, which will not only prove rewarding to you, but also to society at-large.

Learn more about careers in the plumbing, heating, cooling, and electrical trades at!