This blog was originally posted on Matthew Mann’s other website, here.

For decades, students in high school have been told the key to a bright future is to earn a bachelor’s degree at a four-year college. Students have taken that advice and enrolled in four-year universities instead of vocational schools. However, a lot has changed since then. Over time, the price of college has skyrocketed, there’s a worker shortage in some vocational fields, and these same vocational fields have the potential for great earnings without paying for an expensive degree.

Vocational schools have been forgotten about, but here’s why they are still relevant today.

The Traditional Four-Year College Has Gotten Too Expensive

You hear about it everywhere — college is too expensive.

The College Board reports in its most recent survey that the cost of a four-year, in-state public college is about $24,610. Although it doesn’t sound like a huge price tag, we’re not factoring in food, transportation, course materials, the additional costs that come with furnishing a dorm or apartment, and laundry! Not only that, but many college students have to take out loans to finance their degree. By the time they graduate, most students are about $37,172 in debt.

What’s worse is that many of these college graduates aren’t getting the return on investment they were promised. Many are unemployed or underemployed by working in a field they didn’t go to school for, such as working in retail or the food industry. Or some are employed, but their salary isn’t high enough to tackle the debt. Most college grads are making a salary of $35,000, which is lower than their overall debt. Factor in the other demands of adult life such as car payments, professional clothing, rent, and electric bills, it’s hard to keep up with the debt and its rising interest rates.

Due to these insane costs, it’s led some students to think about an alternative path through a vocational school.

There’s a Plethora of Jobs

According to ManpowerGroup, the skilled trades like welders and electricians have been the hardest to staff. For decades, parents and educators have been pushing children toward the traditional four-year college path instead of the blue-collar jobs of vocational training. Over time, there haven’t been enough trained workers to sustain the workforce demand. Not only that, but the baby boomers who make up a majority of the skilled trade worker population are retiring — either because they’re approaching the age of retirement or they can no longer work because their jobs are too physically demanding.

Both situations are leaving the industry in dire need of workers. And the demand for certain industries have been increasing at a pace faster than community and technical colleges can produce.

You Can Get Ahead in the Workforce

Because trade school traditionally takes about two years to complete, vocational trainees can get into the workforce earlier — in about half the time as someone who attends a traditional four-year college. This allows workers to get an additional two years of income over a four-year college graduate. What’s even better is that blue-collar workers have the potential to earn the same salary as a white-collar worker, and maybe even out earn their white-collar peers down the line!

Are you thinking about enrolling in a vocational school? Ask me anything in the comments!