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Posted on Nov 19, 2018

Let’s revisit the welder vs. philosopher issue: Column

By Stephen Matern

Many community colleges, private schools, and professional associations/unions have very good vocational training programs that prepare students for direct entry into the “blue collar” workforce. There are a variety of career paths available at a much lower cost than the university options.
A four-year university, bachelor level degree generally costs much more. Tuition is higher, plus longer living expense times must be added. Many people receive their degrees and obtain employment at $30,000 to $32,000 per year, with no overtime, and with a student loan debt between $35,000 and $85,000 plus interest.
Blue-collar trades entry level employment is usually between $16 and $19 dollars per hour, rising to $22 to $25 per hour within three years. The full journeyman electrician rate is in excess of $37 per hour.
Averaging the entry-level rates for the first few years at $20 per hour, results in an annual salary of $41,600. This figure does not include any overtime pay, which is usually 1½ to 2 times the normal hourly rates.
The IET and MMT degree options in the Industrial Systems Technology (IST) program at Big Bend Community College (BBCC), along with many other options, prepare students for employment in paths that lead to gainful employment with living-wage careers.
These IST programs at BBCC prepare students for an AAS (Associate in Applied Science), degree in either Industrial Electrical (IET) or Maintenance Mechanic Technology (MMT). The Industrial Electrical also has an Electronic Communications option that is specifically aimed at preparation for the Federal Communications Commission’s General Radio Operators License certification test.
In my opinion, a vocational option is a more preferable start. Gainful employment begins sooner, and education can continue, enhancing a desired career path.

Stephen Matern, CMSgt USAF (ret), of Moses Lake, is a part-time instructor at Big Bend Community College.