Q: Where did you go to technical school and what did you study?
A: I joined the Indiana-Kentucky Regional Council of Carpenters as a first year apprentice. The training program was located in Indianapolis, Indiana, where I participated in classroom studies that were combined with related hands-on activities that I performed in the same facility. In the beginning, the course work included industry safety standards, CPR certifications, and construction math lessons. Throughout the apprenticeship program, the coursework become more specialized to prepare me to meet the demands that were expected of me while I was working.
Q: Why did you choose to go to a technical school? And why did you choose that particular trade?
A: After graduating from high school, it was necessary for me to begin earning money. I spent seven years working as an unskilled laborer until I discovered that I could get an education while being employed. The work that I had been performing was related to carpentry, so the Carpenter’s Apprenticeship Program was a suitable option. As it turned out, my entry level pay-scale as an apprentice exceeded what I was able to earn on my own. This program also provided me with health insurance benefits paid for by the contractors that I was working for. The trade school opportunity allowed me to work, earn, and learn at the same time.
Q: Tell us about your experience during your time at school – the program, the instructors, the training.
A: The learning process became something that I would look forward to each session. The program was demanding, but it was also enjoyable. It provided me with useful training that I could immediately put into practice on the job. Every instructor had been through the same process, and they understood what my classmates and I were going through. The group that I began the program with would later become the group that I would graduate with. Throughout that time, I made several friends that I still work with and others that I keep in touch with outside of work. This close network of friends has always been the first place I would go after a project ended, and I needed to find another job. In construction, every day at work is a day closer to the end of the job. The connections I now have from the training program are invaluable to me.
Q: Where do you see technical schools fitting into the future of American education?
A: Technical and trade schools provide many important functions in American education. I was able to learn in the same community where I would be working, and this meant that my training directly related to the work I have been asked to perform. With the changing nature of the American economy, this relevant experience is important for maintaining a qualified, skilled workforce that can meet new industry standards and demands. The recession has made it clear to me that education is the best way to avoid the unemployment line. I have heard several news reports that say that many of the jobs that were lost in the recession will not return. Technical and trade schools are able to train workers to perform jobs and find employment working in the industries that remain as well as the new industries being created.
Q: What advice do you have for people who are considering a technical school education?
A: I have and continue to recommend technical and trade schools to people who are looking for stable employment options that pay well. The education and skills acquired in these types of programs are specialized for the work that is available. The training provides people with an advantage over the competition, and the network of industry insiders is invaluable to obtaining and maintaining stable employment. In many situations, this type of education will outperform what a person can achieve with a university degree. A university education is expensive, time consuming, and does not offer the practical skills required to immediately enter the workforce and start earning a decent living. I tell people to find an industry they will enjoy and join a program that will make it happen.