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Trade School vs. Apprenticeship

by Amy Pearson

Trade schools and apprenticeships are both good options for those looking for specific technical training, but don't have the academic abilities, financial resources or time available to commit to a traditional four-year college program. There are distinct advantages and disadvantages to both options, and students must weigh their needs and career goals with the time, effort and competitiveness required to complete either trade school or apprenticeships.

Advantages of Apprenticeships

The state of California’s Division of Apprenticeship standards define apprenticeships as “learning by doing.” Apprenticeships are a good choice for those interested in joining a labor union or employment with a specific company. Apprentices benefit from being paid to learn the exact skills needed in their careers. Having apprentices benefits employers as well, as they reduce training costs and improve worker productivity, according to the Florida Department of Education. Upon completion of apprenticeships, workers generally earn highly competitive wages and have the security of guaranteed employment for a set length of time with the company that trained them.

Trade School Advantages

Trade schools are a good option for those pursuing specialization in a variety of technical careers, such as truck driver, hair stylist, medical assistant or diesel technician. Although students generally pay for their training on their own, they are free to pursue employment anywhere they desire or apply for a number of similar positions. They can also apply for grants, loans and scholarships to help them pay for training. Trade schools offer the opportunity for a unique plan of study and a more individualized schedule for those students needing flexible learning options.

Disadvantages of Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships generally come with the stipulation that employees will work for the sponsoring company once the training period is complete. This could be a disadvantage if workers are offered better-paying jobs or are unhappy with the company. The state of California reports some apprenticeships take up to six years to complete, which could be a problem for those needing more immediate training. Specific skills are emphasized as well, which might not easily transfer to another position. If a particular job is highly competitive, apprenticeships might be hard to obtain. Because many apprenticeships are offered in jobs that are traditionally associated with men, the Florida Department of Education reports women are much less likely to obtain one than men.

Trade School Disadvantages

The cost of trade schools could be prohibitive for some students. The Federal Trade Commission warns that not all trade schools are reputable. Licensing and accreditation might not be transfer from state to state. Even though trade schools might have job-placement services available, there is no guarantee of employment upon graduation. Trade students might be expected to purchase expensive equipment, adding to the cost of the training. If they decide that their choice of study is not a good for them, they risk losing time and money if their skills are not applicable to a new career area. Some trade schools have come under fire because they often have relatively low graduation rates, and drop-outs are left with hefty loan debts and no marketable skills, according to an article published by the Vallejo Times Herald.

About the Author

Amy Pearson earned dual bachelor's degrees in management and horticulture. She is a licensed elementary teacher for kindergarten through sixth grades. Pearson specializes in flower and vegetable gardening, landscape design, education, early childhood and child development.

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