What About Attending a Trade School Instead of College?

Gun Cleaning iStock-495328866
The author argues young people should consider a trade over college, like gunsmithing. IMG iStock-495328866

U.S.A. -(AmmoLand.com)- This article is geared towards helping kids that have recently graduated from high school/college or kids that have yet to find a career. I don‘t want to sound like some cynical, bitter old man but I’m glad that I’m not a kid recently graduated from high school or college and trying to land a job and take out on a career path. There are a lot of dysfunctional companies out there right now. They have no loyalty to their employees. You can be a hero one day and a zero the next and get fired. But regardless of the doom and gloom picture I’m painting here, I still say that certain principles hold true and have stood the test of time.

Here are a couple of words of advice to begin:

  1. Be a hard worker. I don’t care how smart you are, if you don’t have a good work ethic ultimately, you’re no good to an employer.
  2. Be loyal to your boss. Don’t undermine him/her. Be a company man.
  3. Learn a valuable skill or better yet, multiple skills. Workers with skills are always in demand.
  4. Above all else value keeping a good name for yourself. It doesn’t scare me at all to get fired. But it petrifies me to ever get a bad name. In the past, I believed only losers got fired – but nowadays firings are like random drive-by shootings. They can hit anyone. But if you’ve got a good name for yourself you can readily land another job.
  5. In your interview don’t start out about the pay. Interview such that at the end of the interview that they think that they can’t live without you and money will be no object to them.
  6. On the opposite side of the coin. Don’t start out getting paid too low or you’ll never catch up if they only give 4-6% raises every yr.
  7. My dad always said given the choice of working for a really smart man or getting a higher paying job he’d choose working for the smart man. No one can take your knowledge from you.
  8. Memorize Proverbs. There is a lot of wisdom on business in the pages of that book.
  9. I am so glad I did #4 and hit it hard as a young man. 40 yrs. later I am still landing good-paying jobs/consulting deals because of making a good name for myself back then and the acquaintances that I made.

Now let’s move into some real-life scenarios as to how you can find a career. At the 2020 SHOT Show, Ron Spomer introduced me to Robert Thacker and Jamey Wojtaszek. Robert owns the Pennsylvania Gunsmithing School and Jayme works there. PGS is doing fine but they’re concerned about the dropping numbers of students across the country in the majority of the gunsmithing schools.

Pennsylvania Gunsmithing School

Due to this concern, they’re encouraging young people to choose gunsmithing as a career. I hear similar concerns among the gun experts that the numbers of hunters/shooters are dropping and the current ones are an aging group.

So as not to start off as a Negative Nancy, here’s some encouraging news. I attended a seminar at the SHOT Show put on by Safe Shoot, which is an Israeli company. One of the speakers said that actually, shooting is the #2 sport in America, even ahead of golf. That surprised me.

If that is the case, then it’s alarming that the number of kids going to gunsmithing schools is dropping because there will obviously be a need for more, not fewer gunsmiths in the not too distant future.

That said, I’m about to state something that up until the last few years I was on the opposite side of the aisle. In the past, I encouraged kids if at all possible to go to college. If they couldn’t afford that then at least work and attend a Junior College and get an associate’s degree. I no longer hold that stance. Let me explain.

Higher learning institutions have lost their compass. Their goal is no longer to teach kids to graduate work-ready. They now have too many hidden social changing agendas. Kids go off to college conservatives and return as socialists. The colleges spend way too much time teaching/pushing these agendas. Many kids no longer graduate with useful skills.

I used to hire a lot of college kids when I was the Director of Quality Control for Con Agra. I had five large beef plants and a cooked plant under me so I had a large QC staff and hired a lot of college kids. Even back then the colleges thought that they knew more what the kids needed to be taught than the industry did. I only had one Professor inquire what skills their graduates were lacking in. Is that not bizarre? Would any business survive if it didn’t do customer service audits? Investigate open markets?

Due to my ignorance, I thought trade schools were for kids like in my high school that would have dropped out but due to shop classes they hung in and graduated (This was all nearly 50 yrs. ago).

Then…. 15 yrs. ago I started learning what some of the skilled workers were making. Such as linemen, electricians, dental assistants, etc. It costs an arm and a leg to hire a good maintenance man-if you can even find one. So now, if a kid can’t afford college, I recommend they go to a reputable trade school. They may graduate right off the bat $200,00.00 ahead of the normal college graduate because of no student loans and have an extra 2 ½ years of wages already in the bank by the time their college buddies graduate.

So, let’s play this out. A kid works for an established gunsmith after attending PGS and learns the ropes. After 4-5 years they could then open their own shop while their college graduate counterpart is still in some menial job barely getting by with no hope in sight and a huge student loan hanging over their head.

So what I’m saying is, if a kid is a hustler but for whatever reason doesn’t have the option of going to college, I don’t see him/her as being handicapped. There are a million options. If you don’t want to be a gunsmith go to beauty school. Same scenario. Work for someone else, learn the ropes at their expense, and then in a few years open your own shop. When you have a few employees then you are making money off of them as well as your own labors.

Before you think I’m nuts, think about it for a minute. A high percentage of kids go to a 4-yr. school and graduate with a degree that is not in demand and comes out with huge debts. On the other hand, a kid could go to somewhere like the PGS and graduate in 16 months. With a part-time job, they may be lucky enough to graduate with no/low debt.

It takes four semesters (2496 hrs.) to graduate. Students of any skill level can expect to complete the program. Every student starts at the same spot and being a course hour program, they typically finish at the same time. PGS has graduates in all 50 states and 18 countries. I’ve never been to the school but here’s what I’d loosely suggest if you attend the PGS school or any trade school. Get a part-time job so you’re not racking up loans. After you graduate, get a job with a reputable gunsmith that you can learn from. Work for him a few yrs. and learn the ropes instead of opening your own business right off and making costly mistakes at your expense. Then in a few yrs. when you’re comfortable open your own shop.

I stand to gain nothing if you go to the Pennsylvania Gunsmithing School or not. If gunsmithing isn’t your cup of tea then find what you like to do and be the best you can at it. The moral to the story is-don’t feel like a second-class citizen if you can’t afford or have no desire to go to college. Be a hustler and sharpen your skills and you may actually end up better off. Good luck.


Tom Claycomb

About Tom Claycomb:

Tom Claycomb has been an avid hunter/fisherman throughout his life as well as an outdoor writer with outdoor columns in the magazine Hunt Alaska, Bass Pro Shops, Bowhunter.net and freelances for numerous magazines and newspapers.

“To properly skin your animal you will need a sharp knife. I have an e-article on Amazon Kindle titled Knife Sharpening for $.99 if you're having trouble.”

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Ansel Hazen
Ansel Hazen
3 months ago

Every “tradesman” I know has more work than they can handle and most drive a better than average condition truck.

Elisa Delaurenti
3 months ago

Excellent. I’m a huge fan of trade schools. And Gunsmiths will always have work, for as long as America exists.

MICHAEL J
MICHAEL J
3 months ago

Shop classes gave students another avenue to pursue interests other than classroom.
Since the demise of industrial arts in public schools, a systematic plan made everything not related to academia seem irrelevant. By raising the education bar, they have also minimized the value of a lower college degree to coerce an individual to the next higher one.
You better make a lot of money if you’re not good with your hands because those that can’t, will pay handsomely.

MICHAEL J
MICHAEL J
3 months ago
Reply to  Tom Claycomb

Same here, wood shop, metal shop, drafting all great skills that I still use today. No more industrial arts in California, we are poorer for it.

Dave in Fairfax
Editor
Dave in Fairfax
3 months ago
Reply to  Tom Claycomb

Tom,
Yup, Give me my lathe and a bandaw and I”m a happy boy.

StLPro2A
StLPro2A
3 months ago

Points listed above are very essential. Regarding being fired/let go, there are many high end pre-owned cars available. That doesn’t mean they are not of value. It merely means the previous owner’s needs changed. Maybe he needed another type car…a 4×4 rather than a freeway blaster. etc. Companies’ needs change, so they change people. Be prepared to know how the need changed. One needs to understand that they are CEO/President/Founder of their own company….You, Inc. One needs to manage You, Inc like a company….because it is. Understand what goods/services one has that others are willing and able to pay for.… Read more »

Last edited 3 months ago by StLPro2A
musicman44mag
musicman44mag
3 months ago

In regards to getting an education. Well, I went to business college to learn computer science. I was able to get a job that got me out of the heat and no longer had to use my back busting truck tires all day. Instead I learned to work in an office with a bunch of sexist women that hated everyman except their husband depending on the day. I liked the air conditioning, I was paid more for using my brain than my brawn but suffered mentally with the abuse from the women. Now my boss, was a con man. He… Read more »

Ansel Hazen
Ansel Hazen
3 months ago
Reply to  musicman44mag

He may have millions but your old boss isn’t worth the dirt he walks on.

Boz
Boz
3 months ago

Hallelujah! Been saying this for 25 years. “College” is a dead end for 95% of young people, unIess you are going to be a doctor or a IiberaI.

SoSueMe
SoSueMe
3 months ago

Guess who will make more money after entering the job market. A post-apprenticeship operating engineer or a Starbucks Barista with a masters degree in Woman’s Studies & $100,000 in student loan debt?

uncle dudley
uncle dudley
3 months ago

We all want our kids to get ahead in life but lets face it some kids just aren’t college suited and they would be better off learning a trade that makes them a good living and can be used all over the country should they want to move.
With what is being taught in most colleges by liberal professors who lean so far to the crazy side I shudder to think what will become of our country in the next twenty years.

Hammock mechanic
Hammock mechanic
3 months ago

Trade schools are the future imo. Times are changing What was old is now new again. If I didn’t hear it over and over that you had to go to college to succeed in life. I learned a trade 30 years ago at an inner city tech school, graduated after 2 years and got my licenses. It was 10 years after graduating before I could put my education to use but it was well worth the wait looking back now.

Rock
Rock
3 months ago

Far better chance of landing a job with the Trade School education…

Ryben Flynn
Ryben Flynn
3 months ago

YouTube user Zeducation had a meme on Unversity vs. Trade School.
Go to 9:29 in the video.

Bill
Bill
3 months ago

Wow, the author sounds like a real snob POS to me. I bet if colleges hadnt come out and shown their true colors to the whole world he would still hold his prejudiced beliefs. By the way, colleges have been the way he described since the 50’s.

Darkman
Darkman
3 months ago

If you want to Change the World. Start by making Your bed.

Darkman
Darkman
3 months ago
Reply to  Darkman

@Gun Fun

StreetSweeper
StreetSweeper
3 months ago

My long term goal is to attend a gunsmithing school AFTER I retire. I probably won’t open a shop (due to government over-regulation) but I’ll be able to work on my own stuff and it’ll keep me busy; never stop learning.

GUNFUN
GUNFUN
3 months ago

I’m 17 and currently pursuing a bachelor’s in Criminal Justice. I am living at Mom and Dad’s house (no housing expenses) and am currently making $2000 a semester on student aid and scholarships. It is working me towards law school, where I hope to become a lawyer. As a lawyer, I will be working towards becoming a politician.

I thought a lot about trade schools, but I can’t change the world as a plumber like I can as a politician. Of course, depending on how November turns out, I might be in prison for political assasination LOL!

StreetSweeper
StreetSweeper
3 months ago
Reply to  GUNFUN

We realize you’re joking of course.

Finnky
Finnky
3 months ago
Reply to  StreetSweeper

@SS – Operational security. None serious leaves little trail and no clues. Poor secret service, they’ve been putting in so much unpaid overtime and regardless of who wins in November they are going to have to step up their game to meet drastically escalating threats. I don’t envy them a bit.

Charlie Foxtrot
Charlie Foxtrot
3 months ago

Why not do both? Attending a trade school and then go to college! There are a lot of misconceptions about both. Many go to college, because they haven’t figured out anything in their lives yet by themselves and their parents think that they are buying their kids a career. Trade school helps with getting kids grounded in reality and learn a practical profession at the same time. After that, they typically have a much better idea what they want and have a profession to support their lives. For an undergraduate degree, it makes absolutely no difference where you go to… Read more »

Last edited 3 months ago by Charlie Foxtrot
Deplorable Bill
Deplorable Bill
3 months ago

Joined the Army delayed entry program in my last year of high school. Served 4+2. Learned how to lead, discipline, honor and get it done no matter what happens attitude. Was severely injured my 3rd year active. Got out during the great recession. Damn nearly starved. G I bill sent me to college. Between my folks and the Army I learned that I was capable of more than I had ever dreamed. Never pass up a school. E o d, scuba, airborne, weapons, Phoenix program etc. The more you know, the more skills you have, the more your worth. Arm… Read more »

JoeUSooner
JoeUSooner
3 months ago

Similarly, I entered the Army right out of high school in August ’68. Served 3+2+1. Back in the fall of ’71, the GI Bill was actually worth a LOT. It, plus a part-time job, got me an Associate degree in Engineering Technology, a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting, and a Master’s, with no – zero – debt afterward. And yes, I agree completely… the more knowledge/skills you have, “the more you’re worth.”

Last edited 3 months ago by JoeUSooner
mikeRH
mikeRH
3 months ago

The reason I joined the Navy was for the GI bill and attend College. Over 55 years ago, attended college for a while and then realized the Navy had given me what you need to succeed- confidence, leadership training, and advanced decision making skills. So I then entered into an apprenticeship program which lead to becoming a plant manager and finally becoming a salesman managing national and regional accounts. In that time I saw so many young kids just out of college with heaps of debt and just as many of those failed as non college grads (who did not… Read more »

Darkman
Darkman
3 months ago

Got my PHD. at the University of Hard Knocks. Spent the last 45 years in several different careers of own choosing. Worked hard played hard enjoyed life virtually debt free. No college debt, Payed cash for my house 3 years ago. Now I’m retired living on a good state government pension and social security and a few investments.. Never needed or wanted to attend college. Just couldn’t see the value in borrowing money in the hopes it might pay off later. Saw many friends go down the college road. Wind up with crushing debt for 10-20 years. Some still owe… Read more »

Joe
Joe
3 months ago
Reply to  Darkman

Want a job!! learn a trade !!