While college remains a goal for many, advocates are pushing other options that provide youth, such as Soria, experience and credentials for high-demand jobs.They include everything from short-term certificate programs to structured apprenticeships from institutions, such as the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee, Yakima Valley Community College and Perry Technical Institute
When he wasn’t studying for the high school diploma he’ll get next Friday, 17-year-old Alvaro Soria of Toppenish was helping build a home for Habitat for Humanity.The work is part of the YouthBuild program, which provides job training in construction for Lower Yakima Valley youths ages 16 to 24.For Soria, it’s one step toward his career goal: becoming an electrician after attending Perry Technical Institute.“I’m just not good at school in general,” he said. “I like to do things more hands-on.” The job pays well, too: The median hourly wage of an electrician nationally is more than $25 an hour.
“The first thing I say (to students) is that you don’t have to have a four-year degree to be successful,” said David Kearby, Yakima district manager for the Associated General Contractors of Washington, a construction trade association. “Unfortunately, as a society, we push that.”Meanwhile, local contractors need workers so badly they’re willing to train anyone showing a willingness to work, Kearby said.And when he talks to students, Kearby notes he’s a college graduate working on behalf of an organization whose members generally don’t have college degrees.They started out working as carpenters and electricians. “Now they moved up to where they have their own company,” he said.
It’s true bachelor degrees offer better odds of securing a high-wage job: About 97 percent of the 2.9 million high-wage ($53,000 a year or higher) jobs added from 2010 to 2014 were obtained by people with at least a four-year degree, according to a 2015 report from the Georgetown University Center on Education on the Workforce.Only 15.7 percent of Yakima County residents 25 years or older have a bachelor’s or advanced degree, according to the Census Bureau. The national average is 29.8 percent.