What’s the right skilled trade training program for me?

skilled-trade-trainingSo you’ve decided you want to learn a trade — great. Now, you just need to navigate your options. Here’s an overview to help you choose which training program is right for you:


Apprenticeships, when you can find them, offer some of the best training value. These programs typically last 4 years with both classroom and hands-on elements from the beginning. Best of all, they allow students to earn income by working in related jobs throughout the program. The biggest commitment on the student’s end is time as these programs typically run 2-4 years–for example the Bay Area Roofing and Waterproofing Apprenticeship Program takes three and a half years. Still, the combination of learning in a program and on the job while earning part-time wages makes apprenticeship programs one of the best options for many students.


Community College

Many of these programs are not technically trade schools, but they graduate the majority of skilled trades workers today. They tend to be two years and grant associate’s degrees or certifications. Typical tuition is several thousand per semester, but sometimes arrangements with local employers can be made in which they cover tuition in what amounts to a work-study program.


Vocational High School

As the name suggests, a vocational high school is focuses on skilled trades training at an early age. Often these schools offer a variety of programs across many fields. For instance, the Apollo Career Center in Ohio has programs in automotive technology, building maintenance, welding fabrication and also cosmetology, design and cooking. These schools also have typical academic courses in English, math, etc.


General High School with Shop Programs

Other high schools are not as focused on the skilled trades as vocational high schools but still provide solid training in skilled trades through shop programs. Petaluma High School, for instance, is considered a general high school, but offers multiple courses in subjects such as agriculture, construction and technology.


Pre-Apprenticeship Programs

These programs take learners with little to no background in the skilled trades and get them ready for an apprenticeship in 3-6 months. Often these programs are targeted at adults looking to get into the workforce quickly. CityBuild in San Francisco has 18-week tracks in construction, tech and other growth sectors.


Private for-profit

This is the high-end option. Programs are expensive–think $30,000 for 12 months–but they are effective at training and offer top-notch placement rates. These schools often focus their resources in a relatively narrow range of disciplines. Universal Technical Institute and Wyotech, for example, are both largely concerned with the automotive trades.


Private non-profit

This category has some interesting options at a more affordable price. Technical Employment Training in San Bernardino, CA is an innovative school that matches student skill sets with industry needs to get a placement rate above 80%. These sorts of schools can be fairly distinct from one another, and a bit harder to find so they deserve individual investigation by prospective students.

A wide range of factors will go into a student’s choice of school, including the student’s age, experience level, and what fields interest them. Even after those are factored in, most students will have more than one type of program as a potential fit.