In this high-tech era where a college degree is positioned as a necessity for success, vocational education is often overlooked. But experts say that a vocational education provides the right experience for many jobs that are currently vacant.
Indeed, there are 30 million jobs nationwide that don’t require a Bachelor’s Degree that pay an average of $55,000 annually, according to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.
Whether it’s a student that doesn’t fit the traditional high school-to-college path or someone who is interested in mechanics, a vocational education can prepare that individual for a well-paying, real-world career right out of high school. Indeed, many students learn from industry professionals and participate in internships and other unique programs that serve as a springboard to careers after they graduate.
For example, over the last two decades, derelict farm equipment has provided high school-aged students with the tools they need for life through the Chevron’s Delo Tractor Restoration Competition, an annual event that is open to high school-aged tractor restorers. The program provides a national platform for students interested in careers in agriculture or diesel mechanics on which to shine, mixing the hands-on vocational experience of restoring an antique tractor with the business skills needed to detail, manage and communicate the process. On top of valuable experience and national exposure at industry events, the Delo Grand Champion receives a $10,000 prize.
The process of restoring an antique tractor to like-new condition involves commitment, determination, teamwork, project management, budgeting, planning and even a little marketing. It’s a very hands-on experience and those familiar with the program say that participants come out prepared for the real world.
“I can’t count the number of kids that have been exposed to excellent career opportunities through this program,” says Rick Elmore, career and technology education coordinator at Dubiski Career High School. “I have been an advisor and mentor to participants in the competition for over a decade and have seen the impact it can have on their lives.”
Indeed, many participants have gone on to careers in mechanics, or have used the experience to launch them into careers outside of agriculture or mechanics.
“The vocational aspects of the Delo event provided critical context that led to my study of automotive restoration at McPherson College,” says Tabetha Salsbury Hammer, two-time competition winner (‘03 and ‘04) and the first female to win the event. “The business skills helped prepare me for a career in the classic car industry. To say this event changed my life would be an understatement.”
For those interested in a vocational education, such programs abound, representing a number of industries and careers. It’s only a matter of learning more about these opportunities.
So, whether you have an aptitude for mechanics or you are not sure if a traditional four-year college degree is the right path for you, visiting the career center at your school as well as looking into vocational internships, programs and competitions, can expand your horizons about what’s possible for your future.