VIDEO — ‘Toolbelt Generation’: More Young People Skipping College for Trade School

Instructor Garrett Marris, second from right, shows students a machine in operation during
John Amis/AP

More and more young people considered “Gen Z” are choosing to skip college and go to a trade school, one reason being the cost of a degree.

A young man named Sy Kirby told NPR he knew a four-year degree was not the path he would take because of the cost.

After being hired by a local water department in Arkansas at 19 years old, he learned skills that eventually helped him build his own construction company, the outlet reported Monday:

Now at age 32, Kirby finds himself mentoring many of his employees, who also opted to learn a skilled trade rather than shelling out tens of thousands of dollars to pursue a degree that they wouldn’t use after graduating.

Kirby is among the growing number of young people who have chosen to swap college for vocational schools that offer paid, on-the-job training.

In 2018, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-TN) wrote in an op-ed that going to a trade school was just as valuable as the path to higher education, according to Breitbart News.

She “made the case that the way we discuss education in America is ‘classist’ in a column for the Wall Street Journal. By looking down upon those who attended trade schools and praising those with advanced degrees, we are suggesting that one is more valuable than the other,” the outlet said.

Meanwhile, CBS News recently highlighted a report from the Wall Street Journal that called Gen Z “the tool belt generation” for choosing to go to trade schools instead of college campuses:

In 2023, nearly every sector of higher education was seeing fewer students sign up, while trade programs expanded, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

“Trade programs are often more affordable than a traditional four-year degree, students note, and, for many, skilled trades offer a more obvious path to a job,” the article stated.

Video footage from 2022 shows young people enjoying their trade jobs in carpentry and construction:

According to the NPR article, the price tag for college is not the sole reason many are choosing to attend a trade school.

“With the use of artificial intelligence on the rise, many Gen Zers see manual labor as less vulnerable to the emerging technology than white-collar alternatives,” the report said.


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