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The Road Less Traveled

In the third and final installment of his series on college and whether a 4-year degree is the right choice for everyone, Mike discusses other options.

You may recall the bit of news that started this whole series: a survey showing that 69% of employers in construction-related industries are having trouble filling positions. With that as a jumping-off point we’ve discussed whether some young people are getting bad advice to pursue a degree, and we’ve looked at the costs associated with that degree.

So now: what are the other choices? Does the absence of a college degree sentence someone to a lifetime of swinging a hammer? The answer is an emphatic “no.”

First of all, “no degree” doesn’t necessarily translate into “blue collar.” A recent article reported that some major Wall Street companies are widening their search criteria for software developers and coders. Why? Because the Ivy League and other high-end colleges that have traditionally filled these roles can no longer keep up with the demand. These firms are now looking to those who’ve been trained in – gasp! – community colleges, and even those with only online training.

Clearly, though, there is a huge need in the construction industry as well, and I can speak to that with some authority. We’re always looking for bright and talented tradespeople, and if you think that path is only for those who can’t make the academic cut, you’ve never met a really good carpenter. Successful tradespeople are smart, creative problem solvers … who happen to get their hands dirty.

Does that choice mean a lifetime of dirty hands? Absolutely not. Just as companies like ours always need talented workers, we need equally talented people to supervise them. There not only is a path to advancement but often multiple paths to a very good, light-blue collar living.

Finally, Bureau of Labor statistics demonstrate that the average worker will change careers – not jobs, careers – three to five times. Many college graduates never work in a field that has anything to do with their major. Translation: the path you choose is up to you, and your choice needn’t be permanent.

So if you or a loved one are at this particular crossroads and considering your options post-high school, make sure all the options are on the table. In the end, no matter what the decision is for college, your destiny and success in life are what you choose them to be.

Good luck!

Mike Popowski is President of PBI Restorations. Reach him at