College Bound? Some students drawn to well-paying trades, avoiding college debt

High school seniors face major decisions in their last year of high school. What influences their thinking?

Editor’s note: College Bound? is a series from the Dayton Daily News asking local high school seniors how they are deciding what to do after graduation. State and local leaders have worked in recent years to build a diverse workforce by promoting options other than a four-year university such as apprenticeships and trade school. We wanted to hear from high schoolers in their own words how they are choosing which path to take. Go here for a full report.

Trade School

Chris Gwynne, a Northmont senior, already knows he wants to be a trucker. His cousin and uncle work in the industry and make good money, which Gwynne said was attractive to him.

“Most of your time is on the road and delivering that stuff. That’s the only downside of it,” Gwynne said. “I actually know that they make good money and that’s why I like it.”

He considered HVAC training, truck driving and plumbing, but trucking stood out to him because of the people in his family.

While college was considered, he said he ultimately didn’t want the cost and didn’t want to go to school for the extra four years.

“I’m not really a school person but I am willing to go to school for trade school because it’s not as long as college,” Gwynne said.

Ryan Haskins, training coordinator of the Local Pipefitters 162, a plumbing and HVAC union that accepts and trains people on the job through apprenticeships, said he has seen an increase in the last 18 months in students who are interested in that work.

Pay is a big factor in recruitment, he said. Haskins said some people, especially managers, are making up to $128,000 per year working in plumbing and HVAC on job sites, and the union is trying to recruit people because of an expected need for workers in constructing new Honda and Intel plants in central and southwest Ohio.

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Apprentices also get paid while working. Haskins said the starting pay for the Local 162 is more than $30 an hour with benefits.

Construction workers, truck drivers, plumbers and electricians are all on Ohio’s Top Job list, which is put together by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s Office of Workforce Transformation and lists careers that pay relatively well and in which the state expects to see more demand.

Marcellus Whitfield

Whitfield, a DECA senior, is choosing between trade school to become a mechanic and going to college to become an engineer. He said he may end up going to college first, then to trade school, or the other way around.

Whitfield said the main point in his decision is his happiness. The work and the money would make him happy as an engineer, he said, but working on cars is something he loves.

“I feel like I will enjoy myself more, if I just end up being a mechanic. Either way, I’ll be happy with what I’m doing,” he said.

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