Finding success in skilled trades

Skilled trades are occupations that require special skills, knowledge or abilities.

Often, these skills can be obtained with less schooling (and debt) than a four-year degree. Many people associate trades with the manufacturing and construction industries. However, they can be found in technology, energy and health care as well.

Traditional pathways

The following scenario is typical for today’s high school student: they research universities in their junior or senior year, graduate high school, attend university for four or more years, graduate, hopefully find employment and earn a pay check. And start paying their student loans.

Research shows on average, the more you learn, the more you earn.

Despite high tuition costs, a four-year degree can be a sound investment and a great pathway to a satisfying career. But not the only way. Students, parents, teachers and counselors need to be aware of alternative paths to good-paying jobs and viable careers.

The path to a skilled trade career

There is no “one way” to pursue a career in the trades, but an important first step for anyone is to have a high school diploma or equivalent.

While you won’t need a four-year degree, you will typically need some kind of post-secondary education (trade, vocational or technical school, career college), an apprenticeship or on-the-job training.Support Local and be an Ohio HeroAd by Ohio. Find It Here.See More

The saying “the more you learn, the more you earn” applies here as well, but often that learning is paid for by the employer. Apprenticeships and other on-the-job trainings are common among West Michigan employers.

These popular programs, pay you to learn from professionals in a work environment while receiving classroom training.

Skills for life

Muskegon employer, GE Aviation, relies on apprenticeship programs to help employees gain the skills and certifications they need to succeed.

One of their employees, Aldo Gonzalez-Ramierez, applied for and was awarded an apprenticeship with the tool making team in January 2019.

He works full time to complete the 8000 hours of on-the-job training and is taking multiple classes per semester at Muskegon Community College — paid for by his employer.

When he finishes, Aldo will be a registered U.S. Department of Labor journeyman tool maker with a pay rate over $30 an hour. According to Aldo, ”[These skills] are definitely something I can have for the rest of my life and be valuable wherever I go.”