A Debt-Free Alternative to a Four-Year College
News reports are full of stories about young people burdened with crushing student loan debt. Celebrities are in trouble for their attempts to bribe college officials to admit their offspring to high-profile schools. Colleges are cutting programs to make ends meet, and many alumni are questioning the return on their hefty college investment. Amid all this bad news, many are overlooking alternatives to a traditional four-year college career path. This is unfortunate because a sure-fire track to a fulfilling and financially rewarding career can be found through apprentice training.
Many Apprenticeships Are Free Setting up a Pathway to Earn and Learn!
Many young people who complete high school, but aren’t sold on the college path are excellent candidates for apprenticeship training. It’s not surprising, as many apprenticeship training programs are completely FREE and students earn while they learn. That’s right, apprentices get paid for the work they do “on-the-job” in the real world – outside of the classroom. More importantly, apprentices learn from the best in their respective fields, and gain invaluable experience and insights into their future careers without risking a lifetime of debt.
Mountains of Debt
Consider the steep contrast of apprenticeship training versus a traditional 4-year college program. Data for 2019-20 shows that the average cost of tuition and fees per year for attending an in-state college is $10,116 and for a private school it is $36,801. Let’s stress that time frame again: PER YEAR! For so many West Virginians, the debt that a traditional college education brings is too much to take on. That leaves many of our young people on the outside hopelessly looking in.
Apprenticeship Training is an Alternative to Continuing Education
Apprentice training offers our young people a viable, proven educational alternative and – for those businesses that participate in the programs – a key resource for workforce development. For years, apprenticeship training has proven to be a successful business model for companies all over the nation. Companies that invest in this training benefit from increased productivity, a highly skilled workforce, greater workplace safety and improved employee retention. And the benefits of apprenticeships to our local communities are many. First and foremost, apprentice training and the employment opportunities it provides allow our young people to live and work right here in West Virginia where they belong. Local workers spend their paychecks here and support local municipal services that benefit all of us through their payroll and property taxes.
All that is good news. But how can apprentice training be provided at no expense to students when college tuition costs are so high? In some industries, these programs are supported by contributions from industry workers and funds provided by the companies for whom they work.
Apprenticeship Training and Prevailing Wage Law
Dig a little deeper and you’ll find that both the workers and the companies that support apprentice training depend on a law called “Prevailing Wage” in order to generate the income that fuels these programs.
Simply put, a Prevailing Wage Law makes certain that workers are paid a fair wage based on a regional survey of rates for their particular level of skill and experience. Some call it the “going rate.” Prevailing wage allows workers to dedicate a portion of their paychecks for apprentice training and offers the companies they work for a fair shot at tax-funded public works projects.
All across our state, West Virginian’s are beginning to question why we no longer have a Prevailing Wage Law, and they are openly and loudly expressing their support for restoring it. They know what we all must know, which is that this law will transform our state into one that can enhance our lives with better infrastructure, education and healthcare and create more employment opportunities.
You can ensure that apprentice training continues in the Mountain State by supporting the restoration of West Virginia’s Prevailing Wage Law. Show your support by adding your name to those concerned Mountaineers who have already signed on to our petition, and help Restore Prevailing Wage to restore West Virginia!