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Trade School: A College Alternative in 2019

A survey conducted by Gallup and Strada Education Network revealed that 36% of those who attended college regret their choice of major. Of those who pursued or completed a bachelor’s degree, findings uncovered that 40% would pick a different field of study. That’s roughly $25,000 a year, for a student who is in-state attending a four-year university, to decide that their degree was not the best choice for them.

According to Mark Danaher, a career counselor at Newington High School in Newington, Connecticut, “My feeling is that high school students don’t have to know the exact career they want, but they should know how to explore careers and put time into investigating them and learning about their skills and interests.”

At 18 or 19, we are expecting teens to know their career-path and putting a hefty price tag on pursuing what they believe is the right option for them. But, are they being given all their options? All the while, some teens may not be exposed to alternatives outside of attending colleges, such as vocational schools.

To assist in the discovery of which path is right for you or your teen, here is an overview of how trade schools could be the perfect fit!

The Difference Between Trade and Vocational Schools

Vocational and trade schools are similar in nature as they both offer an accelerated path to get into a specific career. While most use them interchangeably as an educational institution that teaches individuals for a particular skill set, some identify them as having smaller differentiations. According to the U.S. Department of Education, technical schools teach the theory and science behind an occupation, while vocational schools may take a more hands-on approach to teach skills.

The Unique Perks of Attending a Trade School

Unlike traditional colleges, trade schools focus on one specific area of “trade” learning. This hyper-focus on a specific skill enables trade-schools to offer smaller classrooms with more one-on-one learning opportunities for the students. Additionally, vocational schools educate students of industry-specific rules and regulation, as well as real-work experiences to enable them to get familiar with the type of work they are pursuing.

The amount of time it takes to successfully complete trade school is another perk to this vocational path. While programs vary, vocational training can go from as little as ten weeks. In turn, this makes this educational career path highly appealing to those who are seeking to get into a profession as soon as possible.

With the unique benefits of vocation schooling, this route isn’t just for those who have graduated high school but also for those who are planning to enter a specific industry for the first time, reenter the workforce, and for those who are seeking to change their career path. The diversity amongst trade school students enables them to network and learn from one another, creating an inclusive learning environment.

Current Demand for Skilled Trades in 2019

A large majority, 70%, of construction companies across the country are having trouble finding qualified workers and construction isn’t the only industry suffering. It is estimated that every day for the next decade, 10,000 baby boomers will be reaching retirement age and will be leaving specialized positions in which fewer workers can fill. Luckily for trade schools, their robust skill-focused programs offer a bright future. Careers that will be experiencing more and more demand for skilled labor include:

-     Carpenter

Total new job openings: 83,800

Average salary: $51,120

-     Plumber

Total new job openings: 75,200

Average salary: $58,150

-     Electrician

Total new job openings: 59,600

Average salary: $59,190


Click here to explore possible career paths!

Think the trade-school path is right for you? Click here to learn more!

The JA Guide to Having an Emergency Savings Fund

As the talented Lindsey Vonn once said, "It's amazing. Life changes very quickly, in a very positive way, if you let it." With these changes, it's essential to consider how it will impact your financial stability. The top life changes that cause the most financial strain? Starting a family, divorce, and taking care of a loved one. Yet, there are more frequent changes in life that cause stress such as a car accident, getting ill, or having to move due to a job loss.

A study conducted by the American Psychological Association found that 72% of Americans reported feeling stressed at least once in the past month. Additional stress in one's life is connected to insomnia, severe headaches, increased rate of heart attacks, among other serious side-effects.

What is one to do? Unexpected life changes are not planned, but by thinking ahead with your savings account, you're more likely to come out on the other side in better shape.

What is an Emergency Fund?

An emergency fund, also referred to an emergency account, is a financial safety net for unexpected changes that may occur in the future. Unforeseen factors may include a job loss, debilitating, illness, or major repairs needed to a home or vehicle.

A secondary purpose of creating an emergency fund is to avoid the pitfall of relying on credit cards to cover expenses. Relying on credit cards when you don't have the funds to cover expenses will make it more challenging to make a financial-comeback. This is primarily due to the interest that will be added to your monthly statements.

How Much to Save for an Emergency

At the very least, you should have $1,000 in a mini emergency account. This is referred to as a bank account buffer. This is not for big emergencies in life, but rather a smaller cushion that will help in case you have an overdraft, or if there is a small emergency that requires you to pay immediately. This type of savings should not be relied on as a safety net as it is not meant as a long-term savings solution.

A good rule of thumb is to save three months of living expenses. For example, if your monthly living expenses; including food, transportation, shelter, and clothing is $2,000 a month, you will want to save a total of $6,000. Depending on your age and lifestyle, the amount you want to have in a savings account will vary.

If you have other individuals in your home depending on your income, you will want to save more than just the minimum. It has been suggested that your emergency fund should be six months’ worth of living expenses. In addition, to ensure better financial stability, you may want to double the amount of the emergency funds should your work have a high turnover or injury rate. This will provide more of a cushion should anything happen to the primary earner in the household.

In a perfect world, an emergency account with a full 12 months of living expenses is ideal. While this isn't feasible for many, saving as many months of living expenses as possible will ensure a good security blanket should you or your family fall on hard times.

Where to Keep Your Emergency Savings Cash Fund

A box under the bed is the worst place for your emergency fund. Not only is it completely vulnerable but it is also not accruing any additional value. Discover identifies these "homes" for your emergency savings:

  1. High-yield Bank Accounts: The benefits of keeping your savings in this type of account include being able to access your savings at any time as well as have your savings earn interest on deposits. When looking into this type of account, look for accounts that have a competitive interest rate and no monthly fees or balance requirements.
  1. Money Market Accounts: these accounts are similar in nature to savings accounts as they can offer higher yields. With this type of account, you can deposit your money at a local bank and access your account online or at an ATM. When choosing this type of account, it is important to check to see if there are any fees for withdrawals.
  1. Certificates of Deposit: also called CDs, these accounts will offer a fixed-rate for a specific amount of time. Remember, these accounts will "tie" your money up, meaning you will be unable to access it unless you are willing to be charged a fee.


Looking to get your student thinking ahead? Check out JA Searching for Savings!

Back-To-School Tips for Kids and Parents 2019

Do you remember counting down the weeks left of summer before the early mornings and staying up late with homework? The majority of students dread going back to school because it's hard to switch their minds from 'fun in the sun' to 'back in the classroom'. Whether your student is starting back at a new school or is just moving into a new classroom, these tips are sure to make their (and your) transition back to school less stressful.

Back to a Routine

Routines are important for every student. It's a way to provide structure through their development. Through a routine, students establish healthy life habits that transfer into adulthood. While summer might have thrown all of the '"at-home routines" out the window, you can re-establish them.

Here are the most common routines that are forgotten over summer break:

  1. Early Wake-Up
  2. Homework / Studying
  3. Meal Times
  4. Down-Time
  5. Curfews / Bed Time
  6. Preparing for the Week or Next Day
  7. Balancing School and Extra-curriculars
  8. Chores

The best way to reintroduce these routines to your student is by slowly incorporating them two-weeks before they go back to school. By slowly bringing these habits back, you and your student are less likely to fail.

Setting and Keeping Goals

Despite goals being a major motivator to youth staying on top of their everyday duties and tasks, it's a crucial component in the professional realm as well. Through repeated practice with goals and goal tracking, you're not only assisting your student in holding them accountable for their work and performance at school, you are preparing them for the real-world.

As your student creates their goals, be sure they are making them SMART.

S- Specific Goals

M- Measurable. Be sure to ask "How are you going to tell if your goal has been reached?"

A- Attainable. Ensure the goals your student is making are possible and realistic.

R- Relevant. If your student is creating goals for their performance at school, ensure they aren't including goals that are outside school such as sports, at home goals, etc.

T- Timely. Be sure your student is including deadlines for their goals.

To ensure their goals are met, be sure to have them down in writing. In fact,  people who write and describe their goals are 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to successfully complete them than those who do not.

Another key piece to setting educational goals, is to ensure students have a support system. This includes parents, peers, teachers, and anyone else who makes a daily impact on your student. A support system shouldn’t only be recognized as someone who celebrates a win. They should also be motivating and holding your student accountable for their goals. A lot of the time, a teacher may have a one-on-one with a student to discuss these types of goals when a negative element impacts their performance, but most teachers are willing to have a sit down with a student to understand how they can assist in the child’s educational goals. A great resource for educators to use in assisting these students is a Student Contract.

When it comes down to it, back to school season is just a time to get back to your normalized routine. These tips should be able to help you, and your family, get back to the routine that they know in no time!

Interested in going back to school yourself this fall? JA is looking for classroom volunteers! Learn more here.                                                                                                                                   

Top Soft Skills in the 21st Century Workplace

City & Guilds CEO, Chris Jones, once said, “Unfortunately, some people believe that soft skills aren’t that important. However, almost every employer I’ve ever talked to about this disagrees. In a world where job roles are changing rapidly, soft skills will be one of the few constants…” When you think about all of the new colleagues you have met over the years, the teams you’ve worked on, and the challenges you’ve faced within your business, soft-skills are at the heart of it all.

While some might argue that soft skills hold lesser value to a business, a report from International Association of Admin Professionals, OfficeTeam and HR.com reveals 67% of HR managers reported they would hire a candidate with strong soft skills, even if his or her technical skills were lacking. Why might this be? Employees with strong soft skills have the ability to grow and flourish in any environment due to the fact that they have experience and interpersonal skills that make adapting easier than those who lack such skills.

Soft skills include communications, listening, and emotional perceptivity, such as empathy and sympathy. These skills tend to reside in personal attributes, personality, and character traits, and social cues picked up throughout one’s life. These skills allow people to connect with one another by effectively “reading” those they interact with. These are not skills that are learned in a short period of time, instead, they are acquired, tuned, and even perfected throughout experiences and time. 

Building Soft Skills in the Workplace

Research from the Hay Group identified managers that incorporate a range of “soft talent”, those with soft skills, in their leadership approach have been shown to increase their team performance by about 30%. Through the survey work of LinkedIn profiles of people who are getting hired at the highest rates, it was determined: creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability, and time management were the 5 most in-demand soft skills sought by companies in 2019. How can a company harness these skills in their workplace? The answer is not to find new candidates to fill positions. Training in these areas is available. In fact, research from MIT Sloan determined that soft skills training may improve productivity within an organization. Findings also included that such training returned roughly 250% on investment within eight months post-study.

Finding Candidates with Soft Skills

Hard skills or technical skills are easier to identify when meeting a potential employee. For the most part, the candidate will include their experience and hard skills on their resume, as well as mention them in an interview. Soft skills are not so easy to identify. When you’re looking at a possible candidate for a position, most employers are looking to ensure a person can do the job at hand. They want to have the reassurance that this individual can handle the complexity of the workload and complete crucial projects. But by focusing on only this skillset, also known as “hard skills”, employers are overlooking the underlying skills that determine how a candidate will interact with those around them, be able to connect with their peers, managers, and even clients. Not everyone develops soft skills at the same pace, but experience assists with the development. More experience can equate to building stronger skills at a faster pace compared to those who have not stayed within a position or a company for long.

Interview Questions to Ask

LinkedIn revealed that only 60% of hiring managers agree that screening for soft skills is tough, but crucial as it will determine how new hires will be able to interact with your team. The professional networking platform identified 6 key soft skills and questions to ask to decode how a candidate’s level of soft skills.

1.  Adaptability

Ask the candidate to discuss a time when they were asked to do something they haven’t done before, how they reacted and what they learned.

2.  Culture Fit

Explore what the interviewee is looking for in a job by asking what three things are most important to them in a position or workplace environment.

3.  Collaboration

Have the candidate give examples of when they had to work with someone who was challenging to work with, how they handled working with this particular individual, and what the outcome was.

4.  Leadership

Ask the interviewee to discuss when something significant didn’t go according to plan at work, what was their role in the project or task, and the final result.

5.  Growth Potential

Have the candidate discuss how they handled a crisis or problem when their manager was unavailable and who they consulted with to determine the solution.

6.  Prioritization

Ask the interviewee to tell you about a time when they had to juggle several projects at the same time, how they were able to manage their time and the final result.


To learn more about how students can develop their soft skills to prepare for the workforce, check out JA Career Success®!

Teens & College Savings 2019

A new survey by Junior Achievement (JA) conducted by the research group Engine shows that more than two-thirds (69%) of teens between the ages of 13 and 17 support the idea of "debt-free college." However, that support drops to a third (33%) if it's paid for with higher taxes. The survey of 1,004 teens was conducted from April 16 to 21, 2019.

"With total student loan debt approaching $1.6 trillion dollars, it's not surprising today's teens support proposals like debt-free college," said Jack Kosakowski, President of Junior Achievement USA. "This survey shows, however, that while many teens are supportive of these proposals, they may not have a full understanding of the financial aspects involved."

The survey also found that nearly all teens (94%) plan to go to college. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 69.7 percent of U.S. high school graduates enrolled in college in 2016. Just under a third (30%) of survey respondents said they expected to take out student loans to help pay for college, while nearly a fourth (22%) expected to find other ways to pay for college and the rest (41%) were unsure of how they would pay for college. According to The Institute for College Access & Success, 71 percent of U.S. college graduates have student loan debt.

"When it comes to paying for college, these results indicate many teens simply haven't given it much thought. As a result, they are going to be more inclined to borrow when they are in college," added Kosakowski. "One way to help better prepare young people to make informed decisions about paying for college is through programs like Junior Achievement."

Junior Achievement delivers programs focused on promoting work-readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy to students in grades K through 12. JA's programs help teens better understand their options when it comes to paying for higher education and encourages them not to take on more debt than they can pay off in a reasonable amount of time given their expected future income. In 2018, Junior Achievement reached more than 4.8 million students in the United States.


This report presents the findings of a Youth CARAVAN survey conducted by Engine among a sample of 1,004 13-17-year olds, comprising of 502 males and 502 females.  This survey was live on April 16-21, 2019. 

Respondents for this survey are selected from among those who have volunteered to participate in online surveys and polls.  Because the sample is based on those who initially self-selected for participation, no estimates of sampling error can be calculated.  All sample surveys and polls may be subject to multiple sources of error, including, but not limited to sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options.

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