The age-old question of whether youngsters should pursue a four-year degree to ensure career success has gotten trickier. A few decades ago, the answer was a definite yes. But now, educators, students, parents and career counselors have so many choices students can head straight to a career or stay in school for postgraduate degrees, with lots of options in between.
When my older son was close to high school graduation, we found out that he wouldn’t be able to fulfill his dream of becoming a pilot. He takes a medication that disqualifies him from obtaining a license. We looked into alternatives because he loves airplanes so much that he’d be content to be around them in any form.
He had been enrolled in an aviation training program at Fulton County's Charlie Brown Airport that taught kids all aspects of aviation. Advisers encouraged him to consider areas such as air traffic control and aviation maintenance.
We learned that those fields have a high demand for employees well into the next few decades. And the state offers financial incentives for students to consider training for them.
The HOPE Career Grant, formerly known as the Strategic Industries Workforce Development Grant, is available to HOPE Grant-qualified students who enroll in select majors specifically aligned with industries in which there are more jobs available in Georgia than there are skilled workers to fill them. These industries have been identified as strategically important to the state's economic growth. Alphabetically, they rang from automotive to welding. Some require a certificate of completion while others are four-year degree programs.
My son chose aviation maintenance technology, which requires two-year certification. He also must pass licensing exams.
The process wasn’t at all daunting. After deciding on a field of study, we had to choose a college to attend. There are about 50 HOPE Grant-eligible institutions in the state. Basically, every college, university and technical school in the Technical College System of Georgia and the University System of Georgia are part of the program.
Atlanta Technical College had the classes he needed and is close enough that he was able to live at home.
The grant covered tuition and some fees but he had to pay for books, student fees, parking, testing fees, etc.
After two years, he’ll be in a field that pays anywhere from the high 40s to the low 80s.
I suggest any high school students who are not sure of their next steps to consider this track. It’s possible to take a year or two to get enough training to enter the workforce and if you’d like to go higher, there’s always more to learn.
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