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If you’re the parent of a recent high school grad, it may seem like everyone on your Facebook feed is sending their child to college this month.  But if your kid isn’t shopping for new sheets or a mini fridge for his or her dorm room, don’t be discouraged.  There are alternative paths to a rewarding and high-paying career in the trades that don’t involve college or its exorbitant price tag.

For far too long, our society has been sending high school kids the message that college is the next logical step after high school if they want to have a successful career and future.  However, “college-for-all” is an outdated mode of thinking, and one that doesn’t fit every student’s needs or talents.  And it certainly doesn’t make sense from a financial standpoint, when you consider the fact that tuition has increased 213 percent over the past 30 years.

Skilled trade jobs, on the other hand, can be a better fit for students who enjoy working with their hands, are entrepreneurial, and looking to pursue well-paying careers without waiting four years (or more) after high school.   For many students, learning to a trade or vocation makes a lot more sense than getting a generalized bachelor’s degree with decades of student loans to pay back.  And the demand for trade work continue to grow.  In fact, there are millions of jobs for high-skilled trade positions but too few workers who can fill them.

Skilled trade workers also saw double or triple growth during the economic down-turn of the pandemic, while most professional sectors struggled.  Right now, there is a strong demand for high-paying jobs in infrastructure projects, the construction industry, and real estate.  On the other hand, the underemployment rate for college graduates is 50 percent, meaning an individual is working in a job in which they are overqualified and underpaid.

That’s why the Associated Builders and Contractors of New Jersey launched its Apprenticeship Training program two years ago. We saw the critical need to educate more skilled trade workers that was not being met in New Jersey. ABC New Jersey’s Apprenticeship program provides paid, on-the-job training, and classroom based theoretical education in 19 total trades.

Working alongside local schools and businesses, we provide pre-apprenticeship construction orientation readiness education (CORE) and can help prospective apprentices get hired with one of more than 1,200 of our member companies. Our apprentices earn while they learn, pursuing an education while working full-time on the path to a successful lifetime career.

Apprentices benefit from on-the-job learning from an experienced mentor, combined with education courses to support work-based learning. Registered with the US Department of Labor, all programs comply with strict federal and state requirements for formal apprenticeship and prevailing wage work. Upon successful completion, craft workers are eligible to be recognized at the journey level in their trade and receive a certificate of completion.

The future of the construction industry is booming, and the need for skilled labor continues to rapidly grow. Trade work provides high salaries, fulfilling careers, and the opportunity to run one’s own business. We need to have more conversations with our high school students to show them the different ways to enter this promising field of trade work.  For more information about ABC-NJ’s Apprenticeship training please visit