BN 4-year degree not for everyone

By Chris Neely

Knight Ridder Newspapers

Despite increasing pressure on high school graduates to earn four-year college degrees, educators and job market analysts say that some students would fare better with one or two years of technical training at a trade school.

On average, college graduates earn about 46 percent more annually than non-graduates, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. But a college degree is not a sure ticket to success that it once was, said Kenneth Gray, a professor of education at Penn State University. "The economy generates only about half as many college-level jobs for the number of people we graduate, and only about half who begin college graduate," he said. "So the actual four-year college success rate is one out of four."

Still, society continues to push students into college, Gray said.


Interlink, a Dallas company that works with industry leaders to forecast the needs of the Metroplex job market, has identified 40 occupations that will have the greatest demand for workers by 2006.

Of those 40 jobs, most of which are in industrial trades such as construction and automotive maintenance, 31 require a minimum of one to two years of technical training. More than a quarter pay $15 to $25 an hour, or $600 to $1,000 for a 40-hour week.

"A lot of parents think the success of their child is based on how many years of college they go to, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that only 29 percent of the jobs in the future will require four years of college or more," said Candy Slocum, executive director of Interlink.

"One of the things we've dealt with is, there is a stigma attached to people doing anything with their hands," said Paul Kellemen, dean of construction technology at North Lake College. "But the fact is, students who choose to go this direction have a great opportunity to further their education and find themselves with really good, marketable skills."

Manufacturing also faces a growing gap between available jobs and skilled workers, said Leo Reddy, chief executive officer of the National Coalition for Advanced Manufacturing in Washington, D.C.

Consequently, jobs making things such as shoes, ball bearings, computers and airplanes are among those with the highest pay, he said.

"Manufacturing is well above the services and wholesale and retail sectors in terms of wages," he said. "It is comparable to finance, insurance and real estate in terms of wage levels."

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