BELLEVILLE, Mich. -

This is a call for frustrated young men and women who hear their lives will not be the same if they don’t go to college, knowing full well it’s not for them.

They’ve heard the line blue collar jobs that offer dirty fingernails but good pay are gone forever. That is not true, making for a unique opportunity for them to step up and build a life for themselves if they are willing to learn a trade.

This story brings out the Certified Financial Planner™ professional in me. As a parent helping pay for now two college educations, I find myself asking “what do we really get for our money."

I know my kids ate well in college having visited cafeterias that rival anything you’ve seen in a casino or other high end entertainment venues. The educations seem adequate, but considering the debt most students are taking on themselves these days to pay for an adequate education, I wonder if it’s really worth the money.

We have seen that roughly half of our college grads are coming out of school with upwards of $100,000 in debt, a degree of middling usefulness and no job prospects on the horizon. The ultimate ignominy in this is a lot of these kids are living at home with mom and dad after they graduate.

What if instead of taking on that debt, they went and got some trade training for jobs like cnc machinists or grinder operators? They can learn on the job, step up after a year or two to $40,000 or $50,000 a year in income plus often quite generous benefits. Who is better off in this scenario? Even if the college graduate makes a six figure salary right out of school [and very few do] it could take upwards of a decade to retire the debt while the tool and die guy keeps cashing checks, contributing to a 401K and slowly but steadily building a life, buying a home and in the end getting ahead. All of a sudden a blue collar job doesn’t sound like such a bad bet! And just for the record, I do recommend college for those who have the desire and the grades. I’m not big on taking on that kind of debt load!

That’s what I found myself contemplating as I interviewed Die-Namic of Belleville Founder Patrick D’Ambrosio this afternoon. He gave us the nickel tour of his plant where 70 guys [that’s what I saw, there may be women] worked away on dies that are used in the auto parts industry, gun shell business and can manufacturing.

This is by no means mindless work either. Each had to read blue prints, program their work equipment computers and measure tolerances that require these parts be within several thousandth of an inch. No one looked bored, all looked as if they had more work than they could do [because they had that much]. There were many empty work stations in need of skilled hands. So for those who have these skills there are jobs available right now for the asking. We have linked to Die-Namic’s website here but virtually every tool and die shop in Metro Detroit is going through the same troubles.

If you are one of those high school kids not certain of how to get their lives started, it’s a good idea to look around for a tool and die training program to see if it is for you. The economics right now are such that you might just do better than the college graduates in your same class for at least the next decade.

Rod Meloni CFP®