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Son in vo-tech for welding. College?
Old 11-09-2019, 12:47 PM   #1
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Son in vo-tech for welding. College?

My 16 year old son is a junior in high school. He goes to vo-tech for welding. He absolutely 100% wants to work as a welder for his career. He's on the fence about whether or not he wants to go to college. My wife and I both strongly want him to go. My wife is a college professor and I am a doctor, so our own biases toward higher education are clearly at play here, so I figured I'd seek opinions here as well, as I know there is a broad range of occupations and education here.

We're looking at a bachelor of technical leadership degree, which is geared toward those working in blue collar industries to move into supervisory/management positions. My wife took him on a tour of the campus today, and he actually seems fairly excited about going this route. My thoughts on it are that firstly, having a degree will put him ahead of his peers for promotions, and secondly, if he were to ever be injured, he'd have a lot better shot at moving into a less physically demanding white collar job. And this last point is most important to me, as I have many patients with a particular skill set whose medical condition doesn't allow them to work in that industry, and they then struggle to find other work/go on disability.

Also, because my wife works at a state university, tuition is free, and room and board are discounted, so financially it will not be a burden for us. My biggest concern is that he will give up four years of earnings for a degree that may not ultimately earn him any more money.

What do you guys think?
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Old 11-09-2019, 12:50 PM   #2
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Invest the $100,000 or so he would spend on college and then have him start work welding for the next four years. Assuming he can make $40,000 or so per year and live at home, then in four years he will have somewhere around $200,000. At that point he can decide if he would rather go to college.

Oh, nevermind, didn't see that he gets free tuition. Very sweet deal!
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Old 11-09-2019, 12:57 PM   #3
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Unions around here are alwsys looking for welders and provide training.
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Old 11-09-2019, 12:57 PM   #4
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Good for him! I'd let him get a welding job out of high school, let him see what it's about. Welders make good dough especially if working exotic metals or techniques. Learning about the "business" end never hurt anyone though, so it won't be me that says don't waste your time in school.
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Old 11-09-2019, 01:03 PM   #5
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I agree with your thinking. In general I have come to believe that people who are willing to work with their hands are going to be commanding increasing wages into the future. Welding is a particularly interesting craft because of the huge variety of jobs from aerospace to pipelines to underwater to plain fabrication. Almost none of those jobs can be exported either.

The general problem with all the current push to college is this IMO: Yes, currently we see that college grads get higher paying jobs than those without the imprimatur. But why would we expect that an increasing number of college grads would result in a proportional increase in those jobs? It doesn't make sense. Increase the supply of product (grads, here) and the price of the product in the market typically goes down. The whole push IMO is based on faulty logic.

That said, your son's situation is not the same. Having credentials that make him stand out will give him a leg up in interviewing for supervisory and management positions. Not a guarantee, but at least he's more likely to get the interviews and, assuming that he really does learn something useful, more likely to get the jobs. Good luck to him!
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Old 11-09-2019, 01:08 PM   #6
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Any chance he could do the welding, and take night courses at the College. That way he gets his cake and eat it too.

That is what I did when changing careers, took some night courses so I could see if I wanted to go in that direction all while earning $$.
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Old 11-09-2019, 01:34 PM   #7
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Your son should also explore crafts such as diesel engine repair. Always have more than one skill in his 'pocket'.

If he has good math skills take a look at California Maritime Acadamy's Engineering Technology's program. Those students have job offers their Jr. year they are so much in demand. When my son was in high school he had little interest in college until we visited CMA.
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Old 11-09-2019, 01:37 PM   #8
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Thanks for the insight so far everyone!

It is possible with this particular degree at this school to work and attend night courses, and many of the courses are available online as well. However, it will be nearly impossible to get it done in four years, as it is primarily set up as a traditional program where most courses are taught during the day, and only a few at night. We've talked about going this route as well. I would be concerned about him being able to get it all done though. He's intelligent and does well in school, but he doesn't particularly like school, and I worry that if he works all day, he won't have the drive to then go to school in the evenings and study, etc. This being said, he's had part time jobs that he works after school and on weekends since he's been 13, so I hope I am underestimating him in this aspect.

I should also add that I think being exposed to different people from different areas with different viewpoints is very important. We live in a rural area that is not very diverse, and I feel this would be good for his personal growth. This is a secondary goal, but one that I do feel is important.
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Old 11-09-2019, 01:42 PM   #9
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Your son should also explore crafts such as diesel engine repair. Always have more than one skill in his 'pocket'.

If he has good math skills take a look at California Maritime Acadamy's Engineering Technology's program. Those students have job offers their Jr. year they are so much in demand. When my son was in high school he had little interest in college until we visited CMA.
In his school, he can only choose one course of study, and he had to make that choice by the end of his freshmen year, so welding it is.

Thanks for the suggestion for that college, but we're only looking at in-state Pennsylvania schools due to cost. For four years, all-in, we're looking at about $24,000 out-of-pocket for in-state university. California Maritime would cost us $160,000.
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Old 11-09-2019, 01:45 PM   #10
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A good friend of my BIL is a welder... he has literally traveled the world doing work... most recently in China.

Perhaps he should do welding full-time for the summer between his junior and senior years to see how much he really likes it when he has to do it 8+ hours a day.

If that's his calling then he can either do welding for a couple years ater high school and then either take a break for full time school or get his degree while both working and studying.

One of my other BILs has an undergrad degree in management but early on decided that he preferred working with his hands and became a licensed plumber... focusing on high-end plumbing used in clean rooms... he later moved up to foreman and then supervisor where his education came in handy (it didn't hurt that he is a pretty smart cookie to begin with). He comfortable retired at the end of June and is loving retirement.
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Old 11-09-2019, 01:52 PM   #11
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Your son's 16 years old, and he has quite sometime before it's time to get out and make his own living. Having a profession sounds good, however it's different when you've got to be on the job 5 days a week, 52 weeks per year. Welding is a pretty dirty, gritty profession.

Our local 2 year community college puts out an incredible number of welders, however our local job market for them is just not that great. But they can learn other jobs where welding is a part of the job. And they can also go into a 6 year boilermaker or steamfitter apprentice, but I wouldn't wish that mostly traveling lifestyle off on anyone.

If your son insists on being a welder as a profession, give him a year to be a welder. Send him on his way--getting his own apartment and car and providing nothing for him. He'll be back home shortly and thinking an education might provide a better life.
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Old 11-09-2019, 01:56 PM   #12
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I am a metallurgical engineer by degree. I have a lot of knowledge about welding and do welding at home on my old car projects.
I would suggest you encourage your son to look into engineering technology programs for welding, or traditional welding engineering programs. Eng tech being a little lighter on the math if he is not as good with that. For sure either way he will still be able to do hands on welding, but with a lot more upside potential for future career growth.
If he really wants to stay as welder, then get as many certifications as possible. Also look into CWI certified welding inspector certification. Just like any profession, the more certifications and letters after your name the better. There are many good paying jobs for good welders, but ultimately having a college degree will allow to make more. Having the hands on welding skills will make him better engineer and increase employer options.
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Old 11-09-2019, 02:06 PM   #13
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I started out after high school logging and working in sawmills. DF's non-stop lectures about getting a degree guaranteed that I would not. A couple years later I went to lumber inspection school as that was a lot of fun(every board was a new puzzle to solve). But alas the $ stunk. At 26 I knew I needed a career upgrade and went to night school to study programming. It wasn't an easy task 8 hours at the mill and 4.5 hours of classes. In 1984 you could still get a programming job without a degree and I left lumber forever.

Point is for me, I didn't know what I wanted till a few years later. Sure I thought I did. It took a few years for the world to beat me into submission.
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Old 11-09-2019, 02:18 PM   #14
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I was into hunting and fishing as a youth and considered being a game warden... after researching careers, I decided I wanted something with better income potential. Then I thought that I wouldn't go to college and would become a mechanic... I was a pretty good wrench and that was how my Dad started out before he went on to sales and later general management.

I vividly recall a conversation in the car where Dad made it crystal clear that his son was going to college (I guess kids were more obedient back then, or at least I was).... but it all worked out fine.
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Old 11-09-2019, 02:38 PM   #15
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We recently moved to a small town, largest in the County, that has a college with a blend of technical degrees and some 4 year programs. It also has an interesting program where high school students can take classes while in high school and earn college credits. This whole approach was new to me as I mostly lived in white collar communities where 4 year degrees seemed like the only reasonable consideration.

Since your DW is in higher education, she is probably is aware of options like this. But I did want to share just in case it was not being considered or you were not aware. I think for many of the HS students here, they find this as an interesting opportunity and I think many take advantage of the technical training but I do not know that for sure.

Just one more thought, my son dropped out of college in his sophomore year. School was not for him. But he has had a fabulous career with a major tech company. Only one time since his career did HR introduce a policy that employees should be degreed. That lasted about 18 months when he had to take classes. Now that the HR rule has changed, he is no longer working on his degree. He was never interested in a leadership position. He just wants to do his work which I sense provides a good contribution to his employer.
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Old 11-09-2019, 02:47 PM   #16
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..............Point is for me, I didn't know what I wanted till a few years later. Sure I thought I did. It took a few years for the world to beat me into submission.
I agree with this line of thinking and am using it with my 18 yo grandson. He simply doesn't know what he doesn't know. I've supported his decision to drop out of college for awhile and work and support himself until his real world education catches up to his academic education.

I worked as a mechanic from age 16 to 24, when I started engineering school. By age 45, I had a 7 figure portfolio, so it was not a wasted youth - I just got a lot of my education outside a formal education setting.
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Old 11-09-2019, 03:04 PM   #17
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I have two friends that do welding, neither has a college degree. One is around 40, and is a supervisor, and the other is 70+ and works only part time, when they have specialized jobs that they only trust him with. Both make pretty good money based on their expertise, so I would agree that he could always take college classes later while working.
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Old 11-09-2019, 04:21 PM   #18
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We recently moved to a small town, largest in the County, that has a college with a blend of technical degrees and some 4 year programs. It also has an interesting program where high school students can take classes while in high school and earn college credits. This whole approach was new to me as I mostly lived in white collar communities where 4 year degrees seemed like the only reasonable consideration. ....
We have programs like that... you attend college classes and get credit for the classes from both your college and your high school... a friend's son who was somewhat gifted did that for both his junior and senior years of high school and had a great head start on college. The downside is that you don't get the conventional high school experience and the degree of attachment to your graduating class... OTOH, for some that might be considered a good thing.
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Old 11-09-2019, 05:18 PM   #19
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If your son is interested in the college program (and I think I know what school), I would encourage him to go. Im of the opinion that higher education is a good thing; college only becomes a problem when the economics are a problem. He has access to a very affordable four year degree, so why not go?

He will have a whole lifetime to work as a welder. Get that college degree now while hes still in student mode.

(One of the young ladies who work with me on the river just started this year in the welding program at a technical college in the middle of the state. She was an award-winning DECA welder in high school and is very bright. This program will satisfy both her love and skill with welding, and her desire to further her education so she has the potential to be more than another blue-collar worker in this old coal town)
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Old 11-09-2019, 05:45 PM   #20
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I'd be fine with one of our kids going into welding or any kind of tech school degree / training with reasonable job prospects and the ability to be financially self sufficient. There is really no reason college has to be completed in 4 years and right after high school. Maybe your son could try welding first and see how he likes it. He can always go back to school or go to school part-time if he wants a change. Here is the Job Outlook Handbook for welders - https://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/w...nd-brazers.htm
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