In the last few weeks, I’ve been invited to or heard about a dozen or more of my friends’ and relatives’ kids graduating from high school. And eventually the subject of what “college” they are attending ends up driving the conversation.  And when I offer the question, “What about the trades?”, I get looked at like I have a third eye in my forehead. 

Now don’t get me wrong: I think anyone with the ambition and drive who wants to attend college should have the opportunity. But are we doing our kids a favor by setting college as the “begin-and-end-all” of preparation for a successful life and career? How about the value in developing a useful skill and a work ethic somewhere along the way?

Today the trades have extensive training programs, many of them offering articulation agreements so an apprentice can earn college credits by attending related instruction classes as part of their apprenticeship. I have several friends who entered a formal apprenticeship right out of high school (myself included) and who used the money they earned at the trade to later pay for their formal education. By then they knew what they wanted to do with the education and a healthy respect for the cost to attain it.

So what do you think? Should we be pressuring every kid to enter a four-year university right out of high school? Or should we broaden their horizons and ground their expectations with options like technical schools and formal apprenticeships?