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Trade Schools Offer Hands-On Skills that Lead to Success

College might not be for everyone, but education certainly is. You might not have the time or inclination to go to a four-year school for a degree, and that is perfectly fine for many careers. But you'll still need the necessary skills to succeed in whatever career you have chosen for yourself, and that's where trade schools come in handy.

Trade schools, often called career schools or vocational schools, offer specialized training for a wide variety of fields. Unlike an academic degree program that deals with theories, a trade school program is primarily a hands-on experience.

The Tricks of the Trade(s)

When people think of working in the trades, they often think of those fields in construction and manufacturing. Indeed, there are many fields that fit this bill. Here's a list of construction trades, though this is by no means an exhaustive list:

  • carpenters
  • brickmasons and stonemasons
  • carpet and floor installers and finishers
  • building inspectors
  • drywall installers
  • electricians
  • elevator installers and repairers
  • hazardous material (hazmat) workers
  • insulation workers
  • painters
  • plumbers
  • roofers
  • iron and metal workers
  • sheet metal workers
  • welders

If you notice, some of these jobs, like carpenters and stonemasons, are some of the oldest jobs in the world. Well before the state-of-the-art tools and technology that exists today to make jobs easier and faster, there were trades in which the work was done all by hand.

The trade career category also includes any job or career for which you must have highly specific training in order to get a job. Some of these careers include hairdresser, esthetician, x-ray technician, and phlebotomist. These and many others are jobs that require specialized education before hand in order to successfully complete tasks in an efficient, hygienic, and professional manner.

Trade Up for a New Career

Depending on the field you are entering, there are a number of ways that you can complete the education you need to be a successful job candidate. Some fields require an associate of applied science degree. This is a two-year degree that can be found at many community colleges. Unlike the associate of science or associate of arts degree, the AAS is meant to exist on its own and does not transfer into a four-year baccalaureate program. While this program has its fair share of classroom work, it also has a good deal of hands-on experience; many two-year trade programs have a specific minimum number of required hours in the field before students can graduate.

Not all trades require a two-year degree. Many programs, like medical assisting, require a diploma or certificate program. These programs can be done in a shorter amount of time, particularly when one commits to the program as a full-time student. For positions like nursing or dental assistant, the coursework is often offered right at a hospital or medical facility. This offers an even greater opportunity for students to learn first-hand from working professionals, as well as get a very clear sense of what life will be like after graduation.

Many programs, especially those in technology-driven areas like electrician and hazardous material workers, are required to continue their education after their initial licensure or diploma is earned. This is because fields continue to evolve long after one's formal education is finished. Unless a person wishes to remain stagnant in his or her career, it is in a person's best interest to continue learning and become more skilled.

Education is No Longer a Trade Secret

The best way to learn a trade is to see it in action. This is why many families boat multi-generational tradespeoplechildren often learn alongside their parents. For some workers, learning from Mom or Dad is enough to start their own career. However, there are many trade careers that require state or even federal licensure, as they require tools or techniques that may pose a danger if not used correctly or installed according to legal codes. So while you may have gotten your start in a trade by helping out a parent, it makes sense to go to a career or vocational school to complete the licensure you need to ensure that you keep yourself and others save when working on a jobsite.

While no career path is truly recession proof, the trades have a better time of getting through tough economies. Why? Because appliances, like heating and air conditioning, will continue to break down and need repair. And even though new construction might be on hold until the economy improves, older buildings will need renovations and updates. All of these tasks need to be completed by experienced and licensed tradespeople, and so employment outlook will remain positive when opportunities in other fields begin to wane.

The best way to maintain job security in the trades is to continue to improve and expand upon your skills. That is why there are some tradespeople who dabble in several different areas in addition to the one field in which they primarily specialize. For example, it would not be uncommon for a person who does drywall work to also be a painter. Also, for those who install new equipment or appliances, it makes sense for them to learn how to also repair or troubleshoot the same structures they install. When people hire professionals to do a job, they often look for people who can do numerous jobs so that large projects can be finished in a reasonable amount of time.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports favorable job growth for many trade fields, particularly electricians, iron workers, and HVAC professionals. Many trades are part of unions, which provide the necessary support and guidance for those who are looking for work, as well as those who wish to continue their education in order to move into higher-paying positions or jobs.

Success in the trades starts with education. Once you decide which career path interests you the most, enroll in a specialized career school that will give you the skills you need to become employed after you complete your diploma, certificate, or degree program.