Editorial: 360,000 reasons high school grads need higher education

Attention high school seniors: this commentary is addressed to you, particularly those without current plans to go to a four-year college.
This is not a lecture.
It’s not a puff piece with encouraging words after next spring’s graduation.
It’s about earning power, and how a little bit of extra work now can make a huge difference in your lifetime.
What we know is that 40 percent of Vermont’s high school graduates will not go on to higher education within the first 16 months of graduation. That’s not just to a four-year college, but not even to additional vocational training or apprenticeships. Nada. You’ll graduate, likely get a low-level job and start working 40-hour weeks at $9 to $10 an hour; maybe take a secondary job, buy a car and become beholden to car payments and, bam, suddenly you’re 30, in debt, and wishing your future was a little brighter.
That’s not true for everyone, but for most today’s reality is that if you don’t get additional training, tomorrow’s job market won’t be kind.
But there’s good news:
• Vermont has ample good-paying jobs, but not enough candidates to fill those positions. Most of those jobs will pay $20 per hour or more; that’s roughly $40,000 per year. (A $9 per hour job at 2,000 hours — 40 hours times 50 weeks — is about $18,000 per year, less taxes, etc.)
• Students with a two-year post-secondary degree earn $360,000 more in their (working) lifetime than someone with a high school degree, and those who get a bachelor’s degree earn almost $1 million more. Let that sink in for a moment: if you get two more years of training, you’ll earn $360,000 more. That’s like making $180,000 per year for going to school — only it’s not, but you get the idea, which is that those extra two or four years of school are the best deal you’re ever likely to make.
• The best part is that many of those jobs are interesting, not boring desk jobs. The Vermont Dept. of Labor recently posted the top 54 jobs over the next 10 years with ample availability, ranging from auto mechanics to construction to farm-related jobs to software engineering to nursing to early childhood education to sales, finance and even creative writing and journalism. They created a list of those jobs, what type of education you’ll need to get that job, and where to get that education within Vermont.
• Several jobs, like sheet metal workers or carpenters, require a high school education, plus training to earn a certificate in a specific field from institutions like the North Country Career Center in Newport or Vermont Woodworking School in Chittenden County. Mechatronics and robotics are two fields also taught at the North Country Career Center, or there’s Engineering & Mechanical Design taught at the Center for Technology in Essex. Husky Injection Molding Systems (Milton) offers registered apprenticeships. You can learn to be a plumber, pipefitter, HVAC installer and mechanic at Vermont Technical College. Or maybe you want to be a massage therapist, police officer, bookkeeper, licensed practical nurse or dozens of other occupations that have good job availability. It’s all there.
We get that it’s tough, as a senior in high school, knowing what you might want to do for the rest of your life.
But don’t start there.
Start by going to Pathways to Promising Careers, Vermont, or mcclurevt.org/careers-and-programs#PurpleJobsGrid.Check out the careers and the needed training each job requires. It’s easy, fun and only takes a few minutes.
Second, try to attend the college fair sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders on Oct. 14 at Castleton University. College fairs are set up to explain what the various colleges and career centers in Vermont offer, help with financial aid, and help you understand how to get enrolled. (Take a friend or two and carpool.) If you can’t attend, check out the Vermont Student Assistance Corp., for more information.
Also know that Vermont Technical College, an excellent college choice in Randolph, has 100 percent placement of its graduates into decent-paying jobs and has seats to fill. That is, if you graduate from high school and meet their criteria, you’ll be accepted and likely earn that extra $360,000 or more in your lifetime.
But start now, not next June as you’re walking across the stage to get your high school diploma. Your path to a better paying job starts with knowing where you’re going to get more training post high school. After you’ve made that decision, figuring out what you want to do for a lifetime comes more naturally.
Angelo Lynn

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