Letter: Trade schools make bigger impact

Re: Ingrid Jacques’ Sept. 11 column, “Obama promotes a higher ed idea that works”: What if I told you that you can go to college for two years, receive real-life job training, graduate with a certificate or degree directly tied to your training, and have less than a quarter of the cost of attending a four-year university? I imagine you would sign up right away for a trade school or an apprenticeship.

Our political leaders should be promoting the advantages of vocational education. So I was elated when The Detroit News published this column, which supports the president’s promise to expand apprenticeship programs.

However, while both trade schools and apprenticeships are great alternatives to a four-year university, I believe one is better than the other. Let’s compare a few differences.

Apprenticeships only offer one-on-one or small group training, limiting the number of people they can affect. Meanwhile, trade schools have an almost unlimited reach. When the unemployment rate for 17-25 year olds hovers around 15 percent, and at least 90,000, mostly skilled-trade jobs in Michigan go unfilled, it makes the most sense to promote and pump funding into trade schools, rather than apprenticeships.

Trade schools connect businesses to a larger pool of career-ready talent as well as connecting students to a larger pool of in-demand jobs. The skills developed through apprenticeships tend to be tailored for one specific company, while trade schools provide the training necessary to compete for a larger pool of possible positions.

Because of these reasons and many more, I recently directed The Garden Party Foundation, which my wife and I founded in 2009, to change its mission. Now, fundraising proceeds provide scholarships for under-privileged young adults to attend trade schools. In 2015, the foundation gave $140,000 worth of scholarship funds.

Through fundraising efforts such as this and better promoting the advantages of trade schools, I think it will become clear to our elected leaders they need to increase funding for trade schools. It will also become clear to students they have other great options besides attending a four-year university.

Students who graduate from trade schools become the backbone of our community through the jobs they do. We need to support them and the schools through fundraising and publicity to get the word out.

Sydney Ross

The Garden Party Foundation