Gen Z Opting For Trade School To Avoid Student Loan Debt

Written by Ann Brown

There was a time when companies complained that they couldn’t find enough workers in the trades, doing work such as plumbing, construction, and electrical. But now it seems like Generation Z is going into the trades in droves and opting for trade school over college. Most trade careers do not require a college degree.

Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 10: Karen Fleshman

Jamarlin talks with Karen Fleshman, founder of Racy Conversations. The lawyer and activist talks about women of privilege exploiting civil rights and diversity movements, and whether Kamala Harris can be trusted on criminal justice reform.


Not only is the job market wide open for tradespeople, but Generation Z is trying to avoid the heavy burden of school debt their parents and grandparents accumulated.  They’re more interested in stable paychecks in fields where there’s an obvious need.

“Generation Z—those who were born between the mid-1990s and early 2000s—are more often turning to trade schools to avoid the skyrocketing student debt crisis and hone skills that translate directly into jobs, from electrical engineering to cosmetology. While the power of trade unions has dwindled, and societal value still favors more elite professions, young students are finding themselves drawn to stable paychecks in fields where there’s an obvious need,” Vice reported.

Generation Z is more DIY. In fact, according to a new report from Yardeni Research, Generation Z is likely “the most self-educated generation yet.”

trade school
Photo by Angelo Moleele on Unsplash


Unlike earlier generations who strove for higher and higher education, Generation Z is more practical. “Only 64 percent have their eyes on an advanced degree, with a significant portion of Gen Zers considering ‘less expensive alternatives to traditional schooling.’ This could include online education, trade schools, or apprenticeships. Meanwhile, more than 7 out of 10 of their millennial counterparts believe in traditional higher ed options,” the Washington Examiner reported.

Generation Z has reason to be wary of getting into debt over schooling. Currently, more than 44 million Americans “collectively hold nearly $1.5 trillion in student debt,” CNBC reported. On average, student loan borrowers will graduate with a debut of $37,172 in student loans. It has even been reported that the student loan debt might lead to the country’s next financial crisis.

And Generation Z seems to be looking to avoid this. “These are children who’ve grown up watching the generation before them struggle in terms of finding jobs and being saddled with student debt,” Melissa Tagg, director of research and operations for Yardeni, told Yahoo Finance. “These are industrious young adults that have had incredible access to things like YouTube and MOOCs (massive open online courses). … Gen Z have really grown up with all this access to technology and a lot don’t even remember the days before the smartphone.”


And there are some trades jobs that pay extremely well, reaching into the $75,000 range and even going up to $200,000-plus. For example, a skilled electrician can make more than $91,000 while a plumber can earn upwards of $85,000.


About Ann Brown

Ann Brown has been a freelance writer for more than two decades. Her work has appeared in CocoaFab, Black Enterprise, Essence,, New York Trend, Upscale, Moguldom, AFKInsider, The Network Journal, Playboy, Africa Strictly Business, For Harriet, Pathfinders, Black Meetings & Tourism, Frequent Flier, Girl, Honey, Source Sports, The Source, Black Radio Exclusive, and Launch. She studied journalism at New York University and has her B.A. Born in New York, Ann lived in Praia, Cabo Verde, for nearly a decade. She created “An American In Cabo Verde,” a Facebook community.