Why Employment Is the Point, Not College

I’ve always been a fan of vocational education because it leads to work. Unfortunately, the consensus is that I support for-profit higher education alone. Such a situation requires research for a proper fit. Most candidates don’t realize its importance, so they skip it. When large sums are involved, research should be the first step. No place is exempt.

Training Is Training If It Pays

Vocational education is any training that gets a student a job. High schools have vocational components that make it possible. Some go so far as to be vocational high schools, which is even better. A certificate is a sure way of letting an employer know how serious a student is, especially early in his or her career.


Apprenticeship is a dusty word I almost never hear. It is the precursor to becoming a licensed contractor. Industry knows the significance of the licensed contractor to customers and businesses, not to mention the references they earn. Licensing makes the contractor worth what he or she charges. Unlicensed work is cheaper but can be costly by impeding future progress.

Options, Options, Options

Somehow, none of this is mentioned in the typical high school career conversation. Everyone involved behaves as if a university degree is the only option ever created. People keep missing the point, which is employment. That can be done in any number of ways. In this country, society keeps saying it’s college. That’s like telling Revlon, L’Oreal, and Cover Girl that the only way to get a manicure is at a nail salon. There are usually multiple routes to achievement.

Support Staff Jobs

Think about it. Law firms employ law clerks and legal secretaries. Accounting firms hire accounting clerks and file clerks. Dental office staff includes dental assistants and dental technicians, aside from dentists. Medical assistants and medical records technicians have long since been a part of the healthcare landscape. Since when does engineering not require an engineering technician or an assembler?

Some of those jobs are held by people working toward higher positions. They could be college students. Maybe they’re just ambitious. Perhaps they are already professionally content where they are. The focus is that they have income on their way to Nirvana. Even if they never reach it or don’t care, they’re functioning as adults.

Big Weddings v. Elopements

Insisting on perfection stalls things like weddings and careers. Call it procrastination if you like. How many people work in their dream jobs? Honestly, not many do. However, they are employed, whether by others or themselves. It counts. That’s really all we’re trying to get our kids to do—be independent. Why use a shipping crate to give a kid a ring when a ring box will do?

Sending kids directly to college after high school is often complicating things. They can always go to college. The rare exceptions are the ones who wouldn’t have gone except right out of high school. Unfortunately, college dropouts and the undeclared outnumber them.

Respecting the Dreams of Babes

Another thing is vicarious parents. It may be your dream to create a legacy law firm. If you don’t know what your kid wants—aside from your approval—you’re wasting time. Family tradition in the professional arena should be a genuine, mutual decision. I have my doubts about families where everyone has the same career. I always wonder who’s pretending. If that’s what they want, I’m supportive. It’s certainly no surprise when they don’t want it.


Some people are motivated by success. Others fuel their fire by doing something they love. Neither scenario is wrong unless it feels wrong. In that case, there needs to be a plan.