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High School Grads Are Choosing Work Over College

As job growth has risen in industries that don’t require college degrees, high school graduates are increasingly going directly into the workforce, according to The Wall Street Journal (subscription).

The big number: “The college enrollment rate for recent U.S. high school graduates, ages 16 to 24, has declined to 62% last year from 66.2% in 2019.”

  • At the same time, the unemployment rate for teenage workers fell to a 70-year low of 9.2% last month.

What’s happening: High school graduates are turning toward jobs that offer competitive wages, particularly in industries like manufacturing, without requiring a pricy degree beforehand.

  • For example, machinists earn $23.32 an hour, above the national median wage of $22.26 an hour.
  • “If you can get [a job] without a B.A. and with decent wage growth, why go get a B.A.?” as ZipRecruiter Chief Economist Julia Pollak put it.

Demand for training: Meanwhile, more young people are pursuing other forms of job training.

  • “The number of apprentices has increased by more than 50%.”
  • The changing economy has led to wider acceptance of forgoing college, as employers’ interest in hiring high school graduates has grown, according to Steve Boden, a supervisor at Maryland’s Montgomery County Public Schools.

What we’re doing: The Manufacturing Institute, the NAM’s 501(c)3 workforce development and education affiliate, has been training students so they can enter rewarding career paths that do not require degrees.

  • FAME, founded by Toyota in 2010 and currently operated by the MI, is a work/study career pathway program that provides education, training and certifications for the Advanced Manufacturing Technician occupational track.
  • If you are interested in understanding the FAME model of skills or what it takes to join or start a chapter, sign up for an informational session here.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
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