Report: Interest in trade schools booming amid waning enrollment at colleges, universities

Trade school enrollment increase

Trade school enrollment increase

A new report shows an increase in enrollment at trade and technical schools and a decrease at traditional four-year colleges.

A few factors driving this new trend are the low cost of education and getting into the workforce quicker, according to school officials.

Jonathan Reese, a student at Summit Academy OIC in Minneapolis, is focused on building a better future.

“To start a career for myself so I can be proud of myself,” Reese said.

He’s learning the ins and outs of construction. The 22-year-old wanted to get certified in carpentry, but he said it wasn’t his first choice.

“I was enrolled in Memphis University, but I really wasn’t feeling it. So I joined the workforce for a little while and that wasn’t working out for me either,” he said.

Reese said the 20-week training program in trade school and low cost made the decision easy.

“If you don’t want to go to college, this is the best place to go,” Reese said.

He’s one of many with that mindset.

The National Student Clearinghouse has been tracking the interest in trade schools across the country. From 2021 to 2022, enrollment in construction trades grew by 19%.

The data also shows fewer people are going to college.

Public two-year colleges saw about an 8% decrease in enrollment. For four-year universities, it’s a 4% drop.

“The salaries have gone up over time, and once we got out of the pandemic, the industries for the trades really picked up,” said Miriam Williams, chief academic officer at Summit Academy OIC.

Williams sees the increase in interest from students firsthand through the school’s information technology, construction and health care programs.

She said the new trend will also benefit employers and the economy.

“There’s a huge talent gap in our economy right now and this is definitely a resource to help fill that gap,” Williams said.

Reese will be one of the graduates to help close that gap in a few weeks by starting a new job with opportunities to climb the ladder.

Summit Academy OIC officials said businesses are also tapping into this demand.

The trade school is partnering with companies to train students in food manufacturing, a program that leads to direct job placement.