Trade in pencils and notebooks for a hands-on experience

Vanessa Passo, Staff Writer

Exploration for hands-on careers is an option available to students, apart from the ‘normal’ approach to school most young adults take.

Trade programs at Elgin Community College are offered to students who enjoy taking a different route to a traditional education. Welding, heating and manufacturing engineering are a few trade options available for students to take a lead on fast growing hands-on career.

Additional programs offered at ECC vary from healthcare, civil, industrial, interdisciplinary and trade. More extensively, the trade programs at ECC includes a variety of options for students looking to get their careers in the hands-on workplace started, such as bricklaying, carpeting,  ventilation and plumbing.

ECC adviser Rachel Moore discusses the similarities of these programs offered on campus.

“In terms of the overall structure of what it takes to complete one of those programs, they still are offered at the associate degree level, the same as our transfer associates like an associate of arts or associate of science, it’s just that the title would be whatever the discipline is,” Moore said.

However, Moore further contrasted some associate degrees, for example an associate of arts to an applied science associate.

“So, you could get an associate of applied science in management, or in culinary. These programs, though, also offer the option to have a shorter-term certificate, which you don’t see with the transfer degrees. So, if you were doing like a larger culinary degree, but wanted to get some experience so you can get right to work while doing the larger program, you could get a certificate in baking or in something shorter that will still build to your overall degree eventually.”

Although the schooling for varying programs have differences, most of them share a common core, according to Moore.  “They will still incorporate general education classes, but much less. There are also options to take classes that don’t require the same placement as the transfer degrees would.”

As previously mentioned, many options are available to students who choose to seek out a more involved schooling environment.

South Elgin resident Andrew Schmidt, 25, of the Ironworkers Union decided to ditch the typical ‘college’ route himself for a more hands-on experience applicable to real life experience, specifically in welding.

“[The Ironworkers Union] is a three-year apprenticeship. I’ve been certified for stick welding for over a year; I was practicing that for about six months before I actually got certified. I took a welding class for stainless steel which was a two-month class through the union,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt’s schooling experience is clearly different than what would be entailed in a normal classroom, although he reiterates statements previously made by Moore that general education is still a focus in trade work.

“I never went and did a normal school environment; almost all of it was on-the-job- training…. But it’s still not an easy route to take. Math, in general, is huge in what I do. Especially geometry,” Schmidt said.

The discipline and motivation used in a classroom is very much similar to the workplace environment of a trade job, according to Schmidt.

“It takes time to learn and get the hang of things. Some people get it, some don’t. Practice is everything, don’t give up on it. Learn to take criticism for what it is, and don’t be cocky and think you’re better than everyone else.”

A professor of Welding on the ECC campus was not able to comment on the topic by the designated deadline.
However, the Academic Advising & Transfer Center has more details and handouts regarding ideas for exploration and quick facts of careers regarding trade work and job prospects.