College is not the only path to success

College is not the only path to success

Morgan Goddard

Sr. Nick Greendyke sat at his kitchen table with his parents, having a serious discussion about the different paths he could take after he graduates high school.  College? Trade school? Military?

   Many students grow up thinking that the best option after high school is to go to a four-year university to receive a degree.

   There is a certain message relayed to students that if they don’t have a degree, you will not get a good job.  However, there are many surprising post-secondary educational options besides college that can lead to a successful career.  West Ottawa High School Counselor, Phil Spreitzer said, “When the school personnel talk about college, we are referring to any formal training program after high school.  Examples would be a trade school, the military, or an apprenticeship program”.  

   West Ottawa Alumni Nick Greendyke decided to take a different route to his career and opted out of the traditional four-year program, jumping right into the workforce through an apprenticeship program.  As a class of 2018 graduate, Greendykes motivation allowed him to graduate with the class of 2017.  When all of his fellow classmates were enjoying their summer and working side jobs, Greendyke was waking up with the sun and heading to work with Action Heating and Cooling.  “I have learned how to work hard, work well with others, while I was making money right out of the gate. I am learning money management at a young age. I won’t ever be stuck doing anything I don’t like and I won’t be out any money if I do not like it.”  The local company offered Greendyke a paid apprenticeship; while he was working 40 hours a week, he was taking in every bit of information given to him with the end goal of the apprenticeship becoming his career.  “With the career path I wanted to take it wasn’t necessary for me to have that level of education”, Greendyke said.

   Greendyke chose not to go to college because he did not want to deal with the struggle of student debt when he could find a job that would pay him while giving him the education necessary to become successful in this trade.  He had always known he had wanted to go into a trade so there was no reason to go into so much debt for a degree that was not going to be put to use. Although some may be fearful of going into adulthood without a college degree, Greendyke feels just the opposite. “There is so much demand in the trades and not much competition,” Greendyke said. Greendyke often compares himself to other college students who are swimming in debt to get a degree that may not help them in the future, something that he will never have to experience.

    Randy Goddard, a career tradesman, worked in the construction industry for 45 years.  Directly after graduating high school, Goddard went to work for his grandfather’s rigging and trucking company: Lee Goddard, Inc. Goddard had grown up in a family of construction foremen.  Goddard knew that he could go to college if he wanted to but he said, “I knew at an early age what I wanted to do, and a degree was not necessary for me to pursue my career in the construction trades”.  As a member of a major labor union, Randy Goddard was able to achieve success in his career without a typical four-year degree.  As he looks back on the choices he made that led him to the end of his career, he had always hoped for a change in the way people view joining the trades. Even though Goddard ended his career as the Vice President of International Industrial Contracting Corporation, he said,  “I believe that there remains a stigma of an underachiever associated with this [the choice of joining a trade.]”  At the age of 14, Goddard started working at his grandfather’s rigging and trucking company Dobson Heavy Haul, sweeping floors; 45 years later, he took his final career position as Vice President for International Industrial Contracting Corporation”.  He believes that high schools across the board do not successfully highlight how exciting and challenging it can be to go into the trades after high school.  

   From school counselors to tradesmen, these adults all share one common belief that there is more than one path to take that can lead to a successful career.