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For centuries now, colleges have been the benchmark for attaining high-quality education. In order to groom yourself and become the best version of yourself, you have to attend kindergarten, learn their ABCs, polish the language at school, perfect the speech at college, and voila, you’re ready to leave the nest and take on the big leagues. Soar with the big birds. But is it all that convenient? Is a degree enough to make you compete for the designation you dream of attaining? Is college really the only pathway to knowledge?


The debate is one that may ruffle a few feathers amongst students. Rightfully so, it is not easy to digest that something you are spending on instead of, well, buying a piece of land or investing in a business is overrated—an understandably provocative thought.


Chadwick’s viewpoints


Charles Chadwick, an author and a student possessing two degrees, is someone who managed to pay back all his student loans with interest and now is debt free. He asserts that he achieved all this through an acquired skill that the college did not help him develop. And he didn’t pay a dime to learn it. All it required was an in-depth study of the trade industry.


He admits he represents a fraction of America’s working class, but also hopes his books, Chadwick’s College Checklist 2021 and Chadwick’s Cultivated Circumstances 2022, cause a rise in the country’s current number of working professionals. He further aims for his books to provide a guidebook for students struggling through the same issues and help them flourish amid debt and acquire long-term skill that takes them out of anxiety and depression.


Chadwick’s father owned a plumbing business and taught him non-conventional ways of negotiating, selling, and adding value before any self-help book ever did. And evidently, that fact alone has taken him further financially than the degrees he possesses. Given his know-how and experience in the market, Chadwick has observed that the trade industry of plumbers, electricians, and HVAC have more job security than college graduates with a history degree. He states that even the dire circumstances of the pandemic left his job security unscathed. All of this was made possible through the trade construction sector.


Why the trade industry?


Choosing a trade as the genesis of your professional and academic journey aligns with the American dream. You’re free to experiment, to be autonomous in your decisions. The ability to decide without hindrance aids personal and mental development. We can rebuild a better America, but we cannot do it with just degrees alone. It requires us to revert to our roots of trades, to what was once the backbone of our economy. Current president Joe Biden has a goal he wants to accomplish during his tenure that actually has a connection to the trade industry. “Build a Modern Infrastructure”: The United States has consistently underinvested in the development of workers, and millions of positions in rising industries, such as construction and healthcare, have not been fulfilled. 


Here are some interesting facts! According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, skilled trades rank among the top ten most difficult to fill positions. Seventy-five percent of contractors are finding it challenging to find qualified workers. Young people aren’t entering these professions as older tradespeople retire. While high schoolers are encouraged to attend college, despite the deteriorating value of a bachelor’s degree and soaring college debt, trades are largely overlooked and underfunded. The skilled trades need young people, those in career transition, women, and minorities. Although women make up 57 percent of the workforce in the U.S., they make up 9 percent of those in the construction industry, which includes both skilled tradespeople and unskilled labor.


SOURCE: College students, women, and minorities trade facts


Instead of swimming with the sharks, Americans are drowning in student debt. When we should be focusing on how to improve in our respective jobs and as individuals for longevity, we are piling up more and more student debt. These hefty loans lead to disastrous circumstances for individuals. Instead of picking up the defaulter notice of the student loan disaster, it’s easier to pick up a hammer and get to work, dig, scratch, and claw if needed, all while maintaining integrity.





Image Source: Charles Chadwick

Image Description: Plumbing using a crimper tool


Today, the trade industry is more accessible than ever. Students can conveniently look for jobs online or start small businesses by capitalizing on social media audiences. Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube offer reasonable options to market your product. It’s also comparatively easier to get hired on these jobs sometimes than those requiring a college degree. If you don’t believe me, head to a job site and ask for guidance and any insight. You can start with little to no skills and earn from the first day. The daily errands you usually would carry out in your household can be a labor-intensive service you provide and get paid for it on the spot.


If only students with a lifetime’s worth of loan debt/bills had attained some trade skills to establish an income stream, they could have lived free of or with well-managed debt. Today, one of the most frequent headlines is “Student loan forgiveness.” Graphs and figures merely show how flawed our educational system is. Almost deliberate is such negative advocacy. If only these students knew better, these institutions would cease to exist. Banks won’t be able to cash in on the needy through interest fees on their loans.


The trade or retail industry can provide you the same platform a college would, with a plus point, the chance to earn a fortune.


The barter system was the first mode of exchanging goods and services, business at its rawest, before currency fluctuations, stocks, and whatnot. The learning curve is pulling off your first sale, regardless of the magnitude, from your first lemonade stand to selling a property. You aren’t preparing for the life ahead, but already living in it, swimming with the sharks.


Shady business


It’s undeniable that most young people spend most of their lives working. The quality of the life they’re living varies. Though, the crux is the same. Hypothetically, if you were a loan servicer, it wouldn’t be good business on your part to have the loan paid off so early. The interest fee on top of the loan would be your bread and butter. You’d prolong the loan until the debtor has a job and can earn enough to pay it off easily. This is why Charles knows the government will keep postponing and introducing new ways to keep collecting student loan payments, but will never forgive them all at once.


Also, it is a fact that student loans are indeed an asset. Chadwick’s heart and message are for the parents and students enrolled in the class of 2022. What should they do? Go to college, look into the military or learn a trade? The mental struggle in deciding how to handle such an impactful financial situation is unfathomable.


Source: Graphs Student loans asset and inflation info


Broken systems


It is essential to understand that we are living in a systemic world. Systems are devised to make things convenient for us, lower risk, and produce optimum results in that very situation. College is just one of those very systems constructed to lead a possible good life. Not taking credit away from the facility’s expertise and opportunities, but not all students need to excel in a system where their talents don’t lie. Every mind has its own trajectory and method of absorbing information, assessing, and executing. Think about it. No wonder there is such a differential when it comes to student aptitudes.


World-leading entrepreneurs – the Elon Musks, Bill Gates, and Zuckerbergs – chose to drop out of college, because they saw that they didn’t need this systemic climb up the ladder. They had already made up their mind about where they wanted to be. Just, because people can exchange emails and text messages today doesn’t mean that letters and mail didn’t exist before the emergence of Gmail and iMessage. Understanding the fundamentals and our roots is essential to unlock our true potential. Colleges were and still are deemed as a matter of prestige and intellect. A thing to ponder over is that the greatest scholars and philosophers this world has seen did not go through any Ivy League education. They went through an era when even the idea of these institutions was alien. Yet, they revolutionized the way people look at the world. They dove into the human mind and tried to understand complex topics.


Justifiable, but…


The trade industry isn’t the most optimum way to live life. You may miss out on having a social life. It’s about taking risks, and not everyone has the stomach for it. It involves hectic hours, stress, and whatnot.


Colleges teach high-quality problem-solving skills, that’s for sure. You are provided with a platform through which you can penetrate the societal barriers that have been set against you. Showcasing your talents through extra-curricular activities can boost your confidence, help you build connections, and overall negotiate better.


Still, learning these subjects in theory and applying them are two very different notions. Learning a trade from the get-go can help you pay off your student debts and save time for when you eventually graduate and enter the job market. A degree can assure you that you will be considered for the job, without a doubt. But it will most definitely not guarantee that you’ll stay in it and thrive.


Companies keep efficiency as a priority. They want to convert and attain ROI without any external costs. They would prioritize an employee who already has the know-how of the market compared to one who they’ll have to train. You may even be appointed for a designation higher than those hiring you way sooner than you think.


To manage learning a trade while pursuing a degree will need excellent time management skills.


Challenging, but not impossible.


Bottlenecks and societal norms


The average fee for a public university in the U.S. is USD 10,388 and a whopping USD 22,698 for international students, respectively. Institutions have evolved from promotors of education to multinational corporations that are financially motivated and driven, looking to milk their consumers dry.


Studies show that 53% of college graduates are unable to get jobs due to numerous bottlenecks. There may be intense competition in the market. Of course, students will rush for job vacancies having their inboxes piled with bank notifications. What’s funny is that they’re all from the same system they chose to put themselves in.


Job vacancies are primarily entertained on a first-come, first serve basis. Someone who has successfully grabbed a spot in the job may be significantly less competent than the one who will apply months later. This is an opportunity cost for the business that is overlooked. And even if students are apt for the job, they fold under pressure due to lacking experience. Others may even realize that the degree they spent their parents’ hard-earned income isn’t even something they are passionate about. And this verdict was only concluded when they were practically indulged in the work itself.


In most cases, it is a matter of pride too for families to pursue degrees only to give their parents the satisfaction of being apt enough to send their students off to an expensive college. The student’s ambitions and thought processes come later.


What’s worse is that society has succumbed to this. The idea of opting for any path other than a four-year college degree to achieve success is alien and is often met with much criticism. This is also why there is a desperate need to apply for hefty student loans. The problem isn’t the cost-at-face value of tuition, but the rate at which it is growing. College tuition has risen dramatically by 200% in the last 50 years. There was a time when an average college student could pay off their tuition by working for three weeks, but now it costs them six months.


A message to society


The academic and professional journey is an intense one for everyone. Its facets may vary, but we’re all in the same boat. We have to understand and break the conventional and systemic norms that society has grown accustomed to.


The “follow the crowd” mentality will only result in more liabilities than ideas, income, and profit. Venture out into different fields from the moment you have an ambition or an idea to earn a buck. The opportunities are endless; the right mindset needs to exist alongside, more importantly, the ability to withstand pressure and unwarranted risks.


Parents and students, if you want a career where you can learn and get paid, don’t ever dismiss the potential knowledge and possibilities that the trade industry can bring you. You are missing out on years of prosperity, carefree bank statements, and most of all, happy lives.


Job security: Careers like Plumbing, Electrical, HVAC, and other trades typically survive weak economies and recessions. They have more job security by performing essential services that the world needs at all times. Meanwhile, college programs may give degree-seekers flexible/applicable skills, but those jobs do not always perform as well during economic crises.


After all, knowledge is power.

Picture Caption:


“Charles is a former college graduate with two degrees and now debt free, but he has found more success working in the trade industry, where he learned a skill for free!”


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