Skilled Trades vs. College: Why Incentives Are Driving Enrollment Decisions.

Skilled trades are facing worker shortages as colleges favor incentives to boost enrollment. Learn how NACAC is changing the game.

The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) recently changed its Code of Ethics and Professional Practices, allowing colleges and universities across the country to offer incentives to students in order to boost enrollment. This decision came at a time when the skilled trades industry is facing a significant worker shortage, making it increasingly difficult for employers to find qualified candidates. As a result, many high school students are now weighing the pros and cons of attending college versus pursuing a skilled trade career. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the impact of NACAC’s decision and explore some of the ways that colleges are using incentives to attract new talent.

The Shift in Focus

In the past, colleges were hesitant to offer incentives in order to fill seats, fearing that it would undermine their reputation or be seen as unethical. However, NACAC’s decision to change its Code of Ethics has paved the way for colleges to dangle benefits in front of students in order to encourage them to apply, visit, or submit deposits. This shift in focus has allowed colleges to become more creative in the way they attract new talent.

According to a recent study, 73% of high school students said they were considering attending college, while 27% said they were considering a skilled trade. This represents a significant shift in the way that students are thinking about their future careers, as skilled trades were once viewed as a reliable alternative to higher education. However, as colleges continue to offer more incentives to students, this trend may begin to shift back in favor of higher education.

Creative College Incentives

From free application fees to cash bonuses, colleges are using a variety of incentives to attract new students. For example, some colleges are offering early application discounts, which allow students to save money on their application fee if they submit their materials before a certain deadline. Other colleges are offering scholarships for students who visit their campus or attend an information session.

In addition to financial incentives, some colleges are offering unique perks to students. For example, some colleges are offering free laptops or iPads to students who enroll in certain programs. Others are offering access to exclusive campus events or priority registration for classes.

One college in Texas is even offering a “Degree in Three” program, which allows students to complete a bachelor’s degree in just three years. This program is designed to help students save money on tuition and get a head start on their careers.

Marketing to Gen Z

As more and more students from the Gen Z demographic begin to enter college, colleges are adapting their marketing strategies to better connect with this group. Gen Z students are known for their preference for experiences over material possessions, as well as their affinity for social media and digital content.

As a result, colleges are using social media influencers to promote their brand and reach a wider audience. They are also creating more immersive campus experiences, such as virtual tours or interactive events, in order to give students a taste of what life on campus is really like.

The Skills Gap

Despite the many incentives that colleges are offering, the skilled trades industry is still facing a significant worker shortage. According to a recent study, there will be a shortage of 2.4 million skilled workers by 2028. This shortage is expected to have a significant impact on the economy, as well as on the individual businesses that are struggling to find qualified workers.

To address this issue, some colleges are partnering with local businesses and industries to provide students with more hands-on training and real-world experience. For example, some colleges are offering apprenticeships or internships that allow students to work in their chosen field while still in school.

The Verdict

NACAC’s decision to allow colleges to offer incentives to students has certainly had an impact on the higher education industry. While it remains to be seen whether these incentives will be enough to keep colleges ahead of skilled trades in the race for new talent, it is clear that colleges are taking a more creative approach to attracting students. From early application discounts to cash bonuses, colleges are using a variety of incentives to stand out from the competition.

However, it’s important to note that incentives alone may not be enough to address the larger issue of the skilled worker shortage. As such, colleges and universities must continue to look for ways to provide students with hands-on training and real-world experience, and to partner with local businesses and industries to ensure that graduates are prepared for the workforce.

At the same time, skilled trades must also do their part to address the worker shortage. This may involve increasing wages, offering more benefits, and providing additional training and education opportunities. By working together, both higher education and skilled trades can help to close the skills gap and ensure that the workforce of the future is prepared to meet the demands of the economy.

The shift in focus towards incentivizing students to attend college has led to an increase in applications and enrollment at many colleges and universities. According to NACAC, 56% of colleges and universities reported an increase in applications in the 2020-2021 academic year, with 39% reporting an increase in enrollment. This suggests that incentives are having a positive impact on the higher education industry, despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s important to note that not all students may be suited for college, and that skilled trades offer a viable alternative for those who prefer a more hands-on approach to learning. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost of tuition and fees at a public four-year institution is $10,560, while the average cost of an apprenticeship program is $871 per year. This makes apprenticeships a more affordable option for students who may not be able to afford the high cost of college.

Furthermore, skilled trades offer a wide range of career opportunities that are in high demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many skilled trade careers are expected to experience significant growth in the coming years, including electricians, plumbers, and HVAC technicians. These careers offer good wages and job security, making them an attractive option for students who are interested in the trades.

In addition to the benefits of the trades, it’s important to recognize the importance of diversifying the workforce. According to a report by the National Science Board, women and minorities are significantly underrepresented in the STEM fields. By encouraging more students to pursue careers in the trades and other non-traditional fields, we can help to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce that is better equipped to meet the demands of the 21st-century economy.

The bottom line, while incentives are having a positive impact on the higher education industry, it’s important to remember that college may not be the best fit for everyone. Skilled trades offer a viable alternative for students who prefer a more hands-on approach to learning, and they offer a wide range of career opportunities that are in high demand. Manufacturers, contractors, and unions should consider learning from the playbook the colleges are using if they to attract new talent to enter the skilled trade workforce. If we don’t, the strain we are currently seeing as too much work for too few people will continue getting worse.

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“50+ Colleges Using Incentives to Boost Enrollment & Drive Visits”

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