Why Gen Z is Ditching College for the Trades

Generation X and Millennials largely agreed on the path to adulthood – graduate high school, attend college, rack up student debt and attempt to pay it off by slaving away at an office job.

Increasingly, we’ve seen a different approach among Gen Z. One of the defining Gen Z traits is not settling for the status quo or doing something just because “we’ve always done it that way.” One of the ways they are challenging the norms is by ditching college for the trades.

Why are we seeing this shift? Let’s dig deeper.

College Has Gotten Too Expensive

Tuition has tripled since the 1960s. From 1963 to 2021, the average cost of one year’s college tuition increased from roughly $4,600 to $14,300, adjusting for inflation. Between 2000 and 2021, average tuition fees at four-year institutions rose by a whopping 70%.

Increasingly, college graduates are seeing diminishing returns on their degrees. The four-year degree that would have allowed them to buy a home and support a family 60 years ago is now barely enough to pay rent on an apartment. For many Gen Zers, the thought of all that student debt with such little payoff is disheartening.

Trade school programs are much more affordable. The average cost of trade school is ¼ that of a college degree, regardless of field of study.

Trade School Programs Are Efficient

Trade schools allow students to finish their education within 1-2 years, so that they can kick-start their careers much more quickly. Apprenticeship programs enable up-and-coming tradespeople to get paid while they hone their skills.

Many 4-year colleges recommend an internship program in addition to classes to get real-world career experience. Trade schools build their internships into their curriculum so that students get hands-on experience and make valuable use of their time.

Trade School Programs and Jobs Are Exciting

Each day in the trades is something new. Whether you are completing an apprenticeship, working independently or supervising a team, you get to meet new people, solve new problems, and make a genuine difference. Rather than sitting at a desk all day, people in the trades get to have hands-on experiences out in the field.

The Trades Pay Well

It’s a tale as old as time – college students sink thousands of dollars into an education, and graduate, only to discover jobs in their field that barely pay above the minimum wage. It’s an extremely frustrating experience that many Gen Z high school students do not want to risk.

Trade school programs help students land jobs where they are paid what they’re worth. For example, the average electrician makes $60,240 per year, which is more than the average office worker who brings home $41,003.

Trades workers who reach journeyman or master status can boost their gross pay even further. Additionally, we will always need plumbers, electricians, and HVAC technicians, meaning that the trades have high job security.

Discover the Path That’s Right For You

From less student debt and better pay to efficient and useful training programs, the trades aren’t just a choice for Gen Z – they’re the best choice.

At Explore The Trades, it is our mission to get young people excited about the plumbing, electrical, and HVAC industry. We connect parents, educators, and students with valuable resources to forge success.

For additional education and career resources, we encourage you to reach out today!