Elementary school, middle school, high school, college. Often times this is the route many of us believes we need to travel to achieve success. Although earning my degree has turned out pretty swell for me, it is not necessarily the end-all-be-all road to victory for everyone. 

I witnessed this firsthand a couple of weeks ago when I tagged along with my editor, Mike McConnell, to an open house at the Sheet Metal Workers Local 80 Training Center in Warren, Mich. Since I’m no expert in sheet metal (yet), I figured the trip would be a cool way for me to learn more about the industry. And it was. 

The event opened up with instructors, industry officials and students introducing the apprenticeship program and sharing their personal experiences. Following the welcome presentation were a series of break-out sessions, where Mike and I were able to mingle with program students, instructors and a few sheet metal and HVAC vendors that were present. Mike even got to record a podcast, which is now on our site titled as "Making its case"  here.

One of the things that stood out to me the most was the fact that the program offers students the opportunity to “earn while they learn.” Wait. Say what, now? In other words, participants of the apprenticeship program are able to receive hands-on training in fields such as welding, computer technology, architectural sheet metal, HVAC and electrical controls, at absolutely no cost… and oh yeah, while getting paid. Sounds like a win-win-win, if you ask me.

As a recent college graduate who is currently paying off a boatload of student loans, I believe “earning while learning” is a policy that all educational institutions should implement. After all, I’d much rather be getting paid for my education than the other way around. But hey, that’s just my (thousands of dollars and) two cents.

Overall, attending the training center open house enabled me to earn some quality time with my good ol’ editor while learning more about different skills and trades of the sheet metal industry. 

What are your opinions on receiving a college education versus enrolling in an apprenticeship or trade program? Share your thoughts!