Vacillation on Vocation Education
November 6, 2018 8:28 AM   Subscribe

A friend of mine is looking into a mid-life career change and is interested in attending a trade school and learning a skilled trade. What's the best value for money in trade programs?

We live in Chicago, if it helps for specific recommendations. He's 27 and doesn't have a college degree or significant resources to fall back on.
posted by LSK to Education (9 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
The best value for money?

I looked it up, looks like it's "construction manager" - but that sounds like it takes a lot of experience.

Here's what I've "heard" around the internet:

HVAC work pays great and has low barriers to entry to start your own company in a place that is under-served.

Welding (especially underwater) - this is pretty high risk, and so it pays great. The safety equipment is annoying to use so a lot of people don't, and end up blinding themselves.


Truck Drivers usually make 6 figures, much more if they own their own rig.

Bartender: Pretty high "social class" job. You don't need to be that good at it to earn a lot of money, but it can be hard to land the job.
posted by bbqturtle at 8:37 AM on November 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

I tell my friends and relatives in his position/age to look into training in HVAC and welding.
Both have very high demand, and programs that are designed to lead straight to jobs, though I can’t recommend any particular institution.
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:48 AM on November 6, 2018

The best value for money is probably going to be a union apprenticeship job if he can get one. Then he'll get paid for training instead of paying while training.
posted by Jahaza at 8:49 AM on November 6, 2018 [5 favorites]

If he's mid-life, then something that doesn't require a lengthy apprenticeship. So, not a plumber or an electrician. Or if he wants to be one of those, he should look for work as a plumber or electrician's assistant so that he can get his hours while he gets paid. For instance in solar we need a lot of electricians (especially in MA due to state-specific regulations) so most of our installers are working toward their electrician's license if they don't have one already. It's a four-year apprenticeship (8,000 field hours plus 800 classroom hours) but they're getting most of their hours on the job.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 8:53 AM on November 6, 2018

27 is not mid-life! He should check to see which unions have openings for apprentices and check his local community college for programs. Public community or technical colleges usually have very low tuition and good working relationships with local employers and unions. He should avoid any high-cost so-called trade schools, no matter what bs they promise him.
posted by mareli at 9:06 AM on November 6, 2018 [7 favorites]

IBEW NECA Technical Institute
posted by Floydd at 9:25 AM on November 6, 2018

If he's interested in Metalworking, which also has apprenticeships, or on-the-job training, which our company prefers, he could contact the Technology and Manufacturing Association in Schaumburg.

mareli is right, community colleges are a great resource for a lot of folks looking to get into the trades.
posted by sarajane at 9:50 AM on November 6, 2018

It is an open secret that there is a huge gap in skilled machinists coming. CNC has changed the field and additive manufacturing looks to do it again, but there will always be a need for manual operators. If that seems old fashioned, consider the difference between tweaking a part and trashing a part when the CAM is just a little bit off. Plus, if your friend likes to be where the action is, the amount of manual machining increases with the coolness of the project.
posted by BeeDo at 11:45 AM on November 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

Excellent question and some nice answers.

I'm looking at doing a mid-life (@ 60) change to another career and I'm checking out additive tech and design drafting at the moment.

I've found the jobs that require continual sitting are just not good for your life outlook; my previous career was/is in IT and I'm just tired of the continual `chasing the rabbit` to keep up with what someone has heard about and thinks it will be great for their project...

posted by sandpine at 10:48 AM on December 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

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