Finding out how to pay for trade school is not much different from a traditional university. People that have a great work ethic, can understand traditional work methods and methods using new computerized technology are in great demand. This means a lot of funding is being funneled into the trades from both public and private sources and finding money for trade school is possible.
Finding the Right Trade School
What school is right for you? There are a lot of different schools out there that vary in cost and quality of education. If you compare a welding program at your local community college to a welding program at a national chain school you might find a difference of over $20,000 dollars, but cost is not the only factor you should consider when choosing your trade school.
- Talk to industry professionals. People that are currently working in the industry of your choice will have seen the products of different educational programs and can give you insight on what programs are best. They can also tell you where they got their start and what is required to get started in the industry.
- Talk to trade associations. Every trade has a trade association, welding has the American Welding Society, electrical contractors have the National Electrical Contractors Association, etc. Trade associations can give you insight into educational programs and hook you up with industry professionals that can help guide you.
- Google it. Look for things like graduation rates, ratings and reviews.
This is your education, be sure to do your due diligence in researching the right school for you.
Talk to Your Financial Aid Counselor
Your first step in determining how to pay for trade school is to talk to the financial aid counselor at your school of choice. The financial aid counselor will help you fill out your Free Application For Student Aide (FAFSA) forms and explain all the costs associated with attending school. There are also many private endowments that come from former graduates, and the counselor at your school will know all about these opportunities. They will help you figure out what you are eligible for and how to apply.
Filling out a FAFSA form will make you eligible for all federal grant programs as well as federal loan programs. Along with federal grants, each state has at least one program to provide grants to students from their states. The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators is a great resource, just click on your state to find out what is available.
Scholarships For Trade Schools
Scholarships for trade schools are more abundant than most people think. Big name companies in this country have a problem, lots of jobs and no one qualified to fill them. In response to this problem, many brands have started giving out scholarships. The best thing about these scholarships is they give you an immediate leg up in the industry. Brands like Grainger, Catterpillar and Honeywell all give out millions of dollars in scholarship money each year. If you are awarded one of their scholarships, the brand is more likely to hire you in the future. Some companies like Ford, John Deere and CSX prefer to give scholarship money through national high school organizations like the FFA. The point is, big brands in your industry are interested in helping you get the skills you need to be successful in your industry.
If there is a brand you are interested in working for, a quick google search will tell you if they are giving out scholarship money and how to apply for them. K&N air filters, Fluke meter company, Toyota, Lincoln Electric, all have some type of scholarship program available. I think you will have a harder time finding a large company that doesn’t give out scholarship money than one that does.
- Build Your Future is a non profit organization that helps people get their start in the construction trades. They have scholarships, and they are a great resource for finding out about career options in any of the construction trades.
- Mike Rowe’s Work Ethic scholarship gave out over $800,000 to trade school students last year, and they would love to top that for next year.
- Trade associations like the American Welding Society, The Collision Repair Education Foundation and The National Concrete Masonry Assocation all give scholarships to students interested in learning their trade.
- National high school organizations like FFA and 4-H award scholarships to their members at the local and national level. Many times these scholarships are sponsored by a large company and this can give you a leg up if you are interested in working for that company. If you are a member of any high school organization, be sure to check with your leaders about scholarship opportunities.
Scholarship opportunities are out there. Talk to trade associations, Google your favorite company or talk to people in your trade. A little research can go a long way to finding the money you need to go to school, and giving you better employment opportunities once you are out.
Apprenticeships and Work Study programs.
An apprenticeship is a great way to hands on experience, get experience towards your licencing requirements and make a little money at the same time. Apprenticeship programs are usually offered by the union associated with your trade. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers offers apprenticeship programs to people interested in working in the electrical industry. The United Association Union of Plumbers, Fitters, Welders and Service Techs was one of the first to offer an apprenticeship program and they have done a great job working with company management to create a successful program.
Most large companies have some type of continuing education plan for it’s employees. It may be a traditional work study program that allows you extra time off to complete your studies while partnering you with people in the types of jobs you are interested in, or it may be an offer to cover a certain amount of tuition each year. Either way, you are earning money and continuing your education.
After completing the FAFSA application, you will receive a “Financial Award” letter, but it is likely that this award will include some student loans. Student loans must be paid back, and are usually not subject to things like bankruptcy. Remember that a loan is a product that is being sold to you, it is not free money. You will have to pay interest on the money you borrow and there are different stipulations on each loan regarding repayment, interest and hardship. Make sure you fully understand the loan process and the loan that you are accepting before you sign anything.
Trade School is Possible
Trade school is a possibility for anyone who is interested in attending. Talk to the financial aide counselor of the school you are interested in attending. They will walk you through the FAFSA application and help you apply for any school sponsored scholarships that are you are eligible for. Talk to trade associations, Google your favorite company and check with the union associated with your trade. If you still find yourself short of cash, student loans may be available to you or you may qualify for an apprenticeship or work study program.
Today this country has a big skilled trades gap. Companies need skilled workers and they are willing to help people interested in working for them acquire those skills.
Kathleen Houlihan is a leader in workforce innovation and she is the Founder of an agency that reimagines talent acquisition and optimizes the system for candidates and employers. Her company, Dream2Career, provides human-centric ROI solutions that filter-in candidates who exceed expectations in the workplace.