Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash

NEW YORK — Teens today only want one thing: to forge their own success and happiness in their future careers. A recent survey of 2,000 American high school students found that although a third of respondents have no post-graduation plans, 82 percent agree the most important thing to them is to do something they’re passionate about, regardless of what career they choose.

Seven in 10 (69%) believe it’s important to have a job immediately after graduating, while others consider higher education more polarizing. Over half of students surveyed (55%) believe college isn’t a requirement for a successful career, compared to 45 percent who think it’s mandatory.

For students who haven’t considered any alternatives to higher education, half the poll (51%) explained they didn’t know enough about other options, such as career paths in the skilled trades — hinting that students may not have access to those options in school.

Commissioned by Wolverine and conducted by OnePoll, the study revealed two-thirds saw how important essential workers and skilled trade careers were and continue to be during the pandemic, prompting 45 percent of students to show more interest in pursuing essential jobs.

Getting there may be no easy feat

college jobsA third of American high schoolers want to learn how to pursue their goals (34%), money to pay for their education (33%), and how to deal with parental pressure (31%).

The results also show students feel more pressure to pursue traditional higher education after high school than alternatives — a third (35%) have felt pressure to attend a traditional four-year college. Still, only 18 percent have felt the same pressure for vocational schools. Three out of five (62%) say the pressure comes from their parents. Students add they feel the heat about school from society (47%) and their high school’s faculty (45%).

Meanwhile, nearly three-quarters (72%) believe looking at alternative options to a traditional four-year college is important. However, three in 10 have considered vocational schools, with 46 percent contemplating community college and 41 percent thinking about having a job immediately after graduation.

“Those choosing to pursue a path in the skilled trades should always be celebrated and supported,” says Tom Kennedy, global president for Wolverine, in a statement. “As the demand for skilled workers continues to grow, it’s more important than ever to understand student attitudes toward the future of work and help them to see the skilled trades as a valued and rewarding career path.”

Should high schools teach more practical skills?

college jobsHalf of high school students (51%) say they’re familiar with skilled trade careers at some level. In fact, 70 percent note they’ve been taught a practical skill by someone they know outside of school.

Students often learned practical skills from their parents (61%), extended family members (47%), or friends (43%). These skills include auto repair (26%), construction (23%), and electrics (20%).

However, two in three students say their schools offer vocational classes that teach them practical skills and essential careers. Meanwhile, 65 percent favor their vocational courses over their core curriculum. Overall, 79 percent of high schoolers believe high schools should teach vocational skills.

For many respondents, it appeals to their learning abilities. Nearly half of students consider themselves either hands-on learners (42%) or visual learners (45%). Students expressed the popular skills they want to learn in vocational classes are auto mechanics (33%), electrics (32%) and welding (32%).

“It’s essential that we continue to give high school students practical, hands-on opportunities — inside and out of the classroom — to nurture their interests and help them learn more about the array of career options available to them in the skilled trades,” Kennedy says.

About Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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