In some ways it was a typical day for high school students in North Carolina. They were playing video games. But these games were actually high-tech simulators, testing John Deere commercial landscaping equipment, and driving around in a new Hyundai.
"I thought it was pretty interesting. We got to drive some nails in piece of wood -- you drive three and see how fast you can get them in. Welding simulation, where you see how good you can weld. I tested and drove some equipment," said High School Senior Bryce Burns. "Hopefully, I can use that in the near future."
Why not use it now? Couldn't these students just go from high school straight to work and save the time and expense of a college education?
They could, and that's the path many are able to take. But most say they don't want to do that.
"I want to be a zookeeper, or an animal biologist," said Brittany Ayotte, another student.
According to a construction job recruiter, even those who will take jobs like the ones being shown here can benefit from a college education.
"With the high-tech equipment that's out here today, it's all joy stick, it's all computer, and it's not a matter of sticking a key in the ignition and starting the piece of equipment like it was in the old days," explained Mike Watkins, a contractor for the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
Robin Perry is the director of career services at Catawba College.
"There is more high-tech stuff in any industry now, and the IT folks, the folks who know the computers and all the IT systems and specialties are going to really be at an advantage," she noted.
Can you have it both ways?
In some cases, you can. Colleges like CPCC offer college credit for those who complete an apprenticeship program in things like bricklaying, electrical work, and carpentry.
A recent US News study found that people with a college degree made an average of $20,000 more per year than those without, and the government says the degree is worth $1.3 million in additional earnings over a lifetime.
On the other hand, the web site careerbliss.com points out that the job of construction worker is one of five that pays well without requiring a degree. The web site lists an average salary in construction at $58,300 annually for workers without a college degree.
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