Changing the Culture toward Trade School

Free Education is Not Enough

Just relying on free education at local trade schools and community colleges is not translating into enough students taking advantage. Memphis has one of the highest percentage of Opportunity Youth of any city in the country. That is 16 to 24 year old’s who are not in school or working. Over 35,000 youth. The largest local community college in Memphis offering free training to earn a trade certificate, only gave a total of 24 certificates during a recent year.

There are a lot of reasons for the disconnect from free education and actually earning a trade certificate. The Vo-Zone focuses on solutions that are designed to create excitement about that vocation.

Article by Mike Rowe

Mike Rowe is an American television host, narrator, and author. He is known for his work on the Discovery Channel series Dirty Jobs and the series Somebody’s Gotta Do It originally developed by CNN. You can get his most recent book, “The Way I Heard It” from his website:

Inserts from Poplar Mechanics article by Mike Rowe: When I was 17 my high school guidance counselor tried to talk me into going on to earn a four-year degree. I had nothing against college, but the universities that Mr. Dunbar recommended were expensive, and I had no idea what I wanted to study. I thought a community college made more sense, but Mr. Dunbar said a two-year school was “beneath my potential.”

He pointed to a poster hanging behind his desk: On one side of the poster was beaten-down, depressed-looking blue collar worker; on the other side was an optimistic college graduate with his eyes on the horizon. Underneath, the text read: Work Smart NOT Hard.

Mike, look at these two guys, “Mr. Dunbar said. “Which one do you want to be?” I had to read the caption twice. Work Smart NOT Hard?

Back then universities were promoting themselves aggressively, and propaganda like this was all over the place. Did it work? Well, it worked for colleges, that’s for sure. Enrollments soared. But at the same time, trade schools faltered. Vocational classes began to vanish from high schools. Apprenticeship programs and community colleges became examples of “alternative education,” vocational consolation prized for those who weren’t “college material.”

Today student loans eclipse $1 trillion. There’s high unemployment among recent college graduates, and most graduates with jobs are not even working in their field of study. And we have a skills gap. At last count, 3 million jobs are currently available that either no one can do, or no one seems to want. How crazy is that?

Here’s a theory: What if “Work Smart NOT Hard” is not just a platitude on a poster? What if it’s something we actually believe? I know it’s a cliché, but clichés are repeated every day by millions of people. Is it possible that a whole generation has taken the worst advice in the world?

Those stereotypes are still with us. We’re still lending billions of dollars we don’t have to kids who can’t pay it back in order to educate them for jobs that no longer exist. We still have 3 million jobs we can’t fill. Maybe it’s the legacy of a society that would rather work smart than hard

This not intended to serve as an endorsement by Mr. Rowe; just a copy his article.