The Hot New Gen-Z Trend Is Skipping College

By on February 7, 2019
From Vice:  On a recent Wednesday morning, about 20 students at Queens Technical High School marched into a supply closet and retrieved what looked, to an outsider, like silver suitcases. They sat back down at the classroom’s U-shaped table arrangement and opened what were in fact “advanced cable trainers,” kits containing the cables and wire cutters they’d be working with throughout their senior year. Meanwhile, their teacher, David Abreu, began to lecture them about what it’s like out “in industry”—the vocational school term for the proverbial “real world.”

“When you go out there, there’s no reason why anyone should be sitting on mommy’s couch, eating cereal, and watching cartoons or a telenovela,” he told the teens, who were mostly male. “There’s tons of construction, and there’s not enough people. So they’re hiring from outside of New York City. They’re getting people from the Midwest. I love the accents, but they don’t have enough of you.”

He asked the class if anyone could name the most common delay announcement on New York City’s notoriously beleaguered subway system. A hand with pink fingernails promptly shot into the air.

“We’re sorrrrrry,” a girl with curly hair and ripped jeans mimicked, before sticking out her tongue. The room erupted in laughter.

“Signal problems,” corrected the teacher, himself a graduate of Queens Tech. “They don’t have enough technicians to keep things working properly. What they need is you.”

Abreu was onto something. As the Brookings Institution noted in 2017, participation in career and technical education (CTE) has declined for several decades. That was in part because of a lack of funding and the fact that many states implemented more stringent academic requirements. However, the growing belief that everyone should obtain a college education also surely played a part. The National Center for Education Studies found that the number of CTE credits earned by American high school students declined by 14 percent between 1990 and 2009.

But the jobs are still there. NPR reported in April that the pressure to attend a four-year college remained so strong in American society that many high-paying jobs in the trades were currently sitting empty. Melissa Burg, the principal of Queens Tech, insisted that New York City’s Department of Education and some savvy parents had taken note of this dynamic, increasingly regarding a bachelor’s degree as the new high school diploma.

“I think those [trade] jobs go unfilled because skilled labor is looked down upon, even though those skilled labor people make more money than I do,” she explained. “I don’t know if people don’t want to work as physically hard as they used to, or if they see their families who’ve worked hard physically, or if those families are saying, ‘Don’t do what I did.’”

Meanwhile, in-state tuition and fees at public four-year schools have increased at an average rate of more than 3 percent above inflation each year in the past decade, according to data from the College Board. Experts say that’s partly a result of a sort of amenities arms race, in which schools use expensive construction projects to lure applicants. That cost—in combination with factors like increased demand and lack of state funding—is then passed down to the customer, in this case the student, and the situation has resulted in the average graduate walking away with almost $40,000 in debt.

Read more.


About Dede Hance