The Future is in Trade Schools, Not College

While American universities might be the most popular way for young people to prepare for the future, it might be more lucrative for the U.S. economy to invest in skilled trade schools, says Joel Kotkin, Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University.

Kotkin says the educational system is a failure for many young people, who invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in a college degree that may provide minimal returns. A recent survey from the Strada Center for Education Consumer Insights found that a mere third of college graduates saw their educations as relating to their career goals. Additionally, only one in five graduates think that a bachelor’s degree was worth the cost.

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Kotkin notes that in order to fight this disillusionment with academia and aid the U.S. economy, young people should be encouraged to attend trade schools that facilitate specialized knowledge training for certain careers. He notes that companies like Apple and Google are no longer requiring applicants to have a college degree, and Elon Musk, entrepreneur and founder of Tesla, has openly favored college dropouts who found their own niche.

The economy would also thrive with additional skilled workers, says Kotkin, as consulting firm Korn Ferry estimates that there could be a deficit of up to six million workers by 2028. Over one million manufacturing jobs are unfilled at the moment, and the shortage of welders could double over the next two years. Kotkin adds that in the post-AI labor market, those entering the workforce should make careers for themselves in timeless professions such as machine maintenance, plumbing, or manufacturing. Countries like Germany and Denmark have training programs that are affiliated with companies, so workers have guaranteed jobs right out of school—a practice that’s being adopted by Tennessee, which has schools partnered with Ford Motor Companies.