College graduates, on average, earn substantially more over the course of their lifetimes than those with only a high school diploma. They are more socially mobile, with more than 30 percent of college grads who were raised middle class achieving top quintile income status over the course of their careers.
In reality, roughly 50 percent of Denver Public Schools students don’t pursue any kind of post- graduate degree or credential following graduation.
What happens to these kids? College isn’t the best fit for everyone, but in today’s world it doesn’t have to be. There are a multitude of educational pathways available that can lead to lucrative and fulfilling careers. They just don’t tend to get the same level of attention as the traditional college path.
For example, there is a huge demand right now for highly skilled workers in fields such as cyber security, advanced manufacturing, technology and the skilled trades. These are jobs that require specialized training and/or credentials, but do not necessarily call for a traditional four- year degree. And they can be very lucrative. The average cyber security job pays $116,000 annually, according to a recent industry survey, for example.
Non-traditional models are popping up that provide students with learning experiences that will prepare them for highly-skilled jobs in areas of need. Careerwise is one such program, founded in Colorado, with elements based off the Swiss apprenticeship system. Careerwise offers high school students paid apprenticeships where they spend two to three days a week getting hands- on experience in an in-demand field. Skillful is another local example, which promotes building a skills-based labor market with job-ready skills and helps employers find the qualified candidates they need.