/The Value of a College Education

The Value of a College Education


By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Rack up thousands of dollars in college loan debt or get paid to take an apprenticeship?

On the surface, it appears a simple consideration; however, numerous factors play into the decision.

Many consider the college degree as a means of becoming a well-rounded person, since the bachelor’s degree includes a general education core.

Of course, your aptitude, ability and interest play into what career you choose, and your career choice typically dictates what type of education you will need. But within those choices lies a myriad of possibilities. For some careers options, a bachelor’s or beyond is the industry standard. But you have another option: apprenticeships.

“Apprenticeship or vocational training can provide the essential basis of knowledge and certification to obtain a meaningful career that can provide stability and self-sufficiency for the individual and their family, without incurring the financial often associated with college degree programs,” said Rachel Pierce, executive director of Workforce Development Board of Oswego County in Fulton.

Oswego County Workforce New York Career Center offers programs and assistance for people who want to further or begin their career, including scholarships for eligible individuals seeking training for an in-demand occupation.

“One of the key advantages of apprenticeships is you’re paid for learning while you’re earning,” said Randy Wolken president and CEO of the Manufacturers Association of Central New York (MACNY). “It’s not learn-then-earn. It’s appealing for those who find great values in their careers.”

The high-tech manufacturing sector is a big part of apprenticeship programs. Wolken said that opportunities abound for these positions.

“The tech sector has about 20 different apprenticeship pathways,” he added.

Many of these offer pay increases every six months while students learn and after 18 to 48 months, graduates typically can work anywhere they want with a nationally recognized credential. Along with their working experience, students complete 140 hours of classroom time, often in a partnership with a local college virtually or in-person or hybrid.

Oftentimes, some of the credits can count towards a degree.

“We have plenty of individuals who go on to get a bachelor’s or Ph.D.,” Wolken said.

Many people assume apprenticeships involve only things such as pipefitting and plumbing. Although the demand for workers in these trades is high and the pay lucrative, these aren’t the only types of trades in apprenticeships.

“New York state has expanded the apprenticeships to different trades,” said Emily Cameron, assistant director of community education and workforce development for Cayuga Community College.

How about titles such as chef, dental assistant, counseling aide, financial services representative, software developer, junior accountant, library assistant, scenic artist, or visual and graphic arts associate?

“One of the things I love about Cayuga is we have a path for everyone,” Cameron said. “We are thrilled to have a variety of short-term training programs.”

The school also offers multi-year apprenticeship programs.

Apprenticeships are open to people of any age who have a high school diploma or GED.

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