Opportunities abound for those who would rather earn a paycheck than a college diploma.
"You don't have to have a high school or college diploma to get started in real estate," declares Dave Tanner, real estate broker with Prudential in Modesto. "And, there is no typical age. We get retired bread truck drivers . . . young men and women from . . . everywhere."
He says potential realtors have to get licensed and that involves passing a state test. Prudential has a six to eight week classroom training course open to anyone for a nominal fee or a mail-order curriculum. "We are always recruiting and we have ongoing training sessions," he states. But be warned that realtors work only on commissions. "The income is very erratic in the beginning, so it's a good idea to have enough money in the bank to hold you over for a couple of months."
The commissions can grow sizable for the go-getters.
"To really make the money, you have to work the hours," Tanner notes. "But most of all, you have to be a people person."
But what if you are not a social animal but are mechanically inclined? If you like to fix things, take them apart, and put them together, then metalworking or machine trades might be the paths to explore.
"Absolutely no college is necessary," affirms Bert Schuster, executive director of National Tooling and Machinists Association Training Center in Fremont. "There are people who just have a high school education and are doing very well."
He points out many go through the association's four-year apprenticeship program.
Machinists make parts that go into virtually any manufactured product - from car engines to computers, from medical devices to kitchen appliances. Bay Area machine shops manufacture components in such diverse fields as medical equipment, semiconductors, computer peripherals, communications, automotive, consumer durables, and aerospace.
Machinists set up and operate a wide variety of machine tools, such as lathes, drill presses, and milling machines. They know the working properties of metals such as steel, cast iron, aluminum, and brass and may also work with plastics or ceramics. They plan and carry out the operations needed to make products that meet precise specifications.
Apprenticeship is one of the primary ways to get into the trade.
"Apprentices work full time at a manufacturing company or machine shop and get on-the-job training while working under the supervision of journeymen," Schuster explains. "They get rotated throughout the shop to become expert in the various pieces of machinery."
All the class work and hands-on training pays off when an apprentice becomes a journeyman.
"Nationally, the average annual income for journeymen machinists exceeds the annual income of those who have graduated a four-year college program," he declares. "They have much greater options and job security than people who don't have a recognized set of skills."
Food an Appealing Choice
College-free careers are also available in the food service industry.
Dana Mendoza, hostess-supervisor with Rio City Caf‚ in Old Sacramento, started in the restaurant business three years ago in a coffee shop.
"It was at my normal 'mocha spot' and I saw the Helped Wanted sign," she recalls. "I began working the counter and cash register and then became a manager with the responsibility of hiring and firing and ordering products."
She says quite a few of the employees at Rio City are going into fields that deal with restaurant management. The same is true with many line cooks who started out being dishwashers. "Once they've shown they have a good work ethic, they are trained to do skilled jobs," Mendoza explains. "This advancement enables them to provide much more for their families and for their future."
Building a Career
A hard hat but no degree is required for construction work and other related trades.
Three years ago the California Coalition for Construction in the Classroom (CCCC) was formed to promote the construction industry as a career option to parents, students, teachers and school administrators. CCCC sponsors job shadowing and is driving the campaign to reinvigorate California's "shop" programs in high schools.
"Our association was founded because the industry had a shrinking pool of trained workers," explains Curt Augustine, executive vice president of CCCC in Sacramento. He says his group lobbies for career education funding and works with school districts to get programs in place by locating proper curriculum.
"We began to investigate and saw a breakdown at the high school level with the absence of vocational education classes that could inform students of opportunities within the construction industry," Augustine explains.
Due to the rising number of retirements and the booming construction sector, 240,000 new workers are forecast to be needed each year nationally for the next ten years. In a high-growth state like California, the need is particularly acute.
Augustine says these are high-wage jobs. While the average California construction worker earns about $24 per hour, many journey-level construction workers earn over $70,000 per year.
Construction also offers free training similar to that in the machining apprenticeship. So rather than racking up tens of thousands of dollars in student loans, these programs actually pay workers to learn a trade including carpentry, sheet metal work, electrical, plumbing and roofing.
"The skilled trades require training but not college," he contends. "There are many apprenticeship and training programs that are really banking on kids who are not going to college. In fact, only 30 percent of those who graduate high school go on to college."
He says the college-oriented curriculum could be the cause behind the 32 percent dropout rate in high school. The schools are simply not meeting the needs of young students not interested in college.
"We believe different educational styles and programs can help students become better suited to adult life," he notes. "There are good, high-paying jobs with excellent health and retirement benefits without going to college."
Sources from this article may be contacted at:
Prudential Commercial Real Estate - 209-529-9610, modesto-commercial.com
National Tooling & Machining Association Training Center - 510-226-3778, trainingmachinists.org
Rio City Café - 916-442-8226, riocitycafe.net
California Coalition for Construction in the Classroom - 916-979-4856, constructcareers.org