My life changed in 1962 when I decided to leave the prestigious Naparima College in San Fernando one year prior to graduation , to become an apprentice at the Texaco Oil Refinery at Pointe -a- Pierre , Trinidad.
After an unsuccessful attempt to join the Royal Air force ( I failed the physical due to eyesight ) I had the opportunity to enter the Texaco Oil refinery ( later called Petrotrin ) as an apprentice.
Though my academics had improved , I was still struggling a bit at school , especially because of my vision problem; we were poor and the thought that I needed glasses never occurred to us.
So , I seized the opportunity for the apprenticeship , even though the age requirements meant that I had to leave high school prematurely.
Actually , I never graduated high school in Trinidad, and only got my Diploma after taking the GED in the US Army while stationed at Ft. Monmouth , New Jersey.
I had joined the US Army in 1971, and after basic training I was sent to school at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey where for almost a year I was taught electronics and computer technology .
After graduation I served as a data processing technician at Fort Rucker Alabama where the army trained helicopter pilots and Air Traffic Controllers .
My job was to service and maintain computers and equipment used to simulate radar traffic for training air traffic controllers.
After my army discharge I got a job on a defense contract with Philco Ford ( later Ford Aerospace) and after training was sent to the Air Force Satellite Tracking Station in New Hampshire as a technician in the computer area, where I remained until the technology evolved.
That apprenticeship as an industrial electrician had provided a solid basis for my career in technology , and years later when I was laid off after seventeen years as a Computer/Data Processing Technician at the New Boston Satellite Tracking Station in New Hampshire USA, it was relatively easy to convert my apprenticeship certificate into a New Hampshire Electrician’s license , once I took some classes (mostly State Electrical Code) and was able to pass the test.
Without the benefit of a four year college degree , I found it was possible to have a decent career in industry as an electrician / electrical-electronic technician.
Of course , one has to always seek and exploit opportunities for education , especially when it is at a company’s expense.
As a matter of fact , the demands of the job made it necessary for companies to send me to various schools to keep up with changing technology , and of course , schools such as Allen Bradley PLC training , GE Fanucs Robotics and other technical schooling was necessary , and I was being sent to schools even a year within my final layoff , which ushered in my retirement.
I tell these anecdotes as a way of showing that even today , one can have a successful career as a craftsman without the burdensome costs of a four year college degree, though of course you do need career specific education and training.
Industrial (and residential) electricians , automotive and electronic technicians, HVAC technicians, are all blue collar jobs that call for highly skilled, well educated craftsmen , not necessarily with four year college degrees , but with specialized training.
Even non technical skills such as carpentry, welding and plumbing are still necessary , and can yield successful and rewarding careers.
Besides , having a skill (a trade) guarantees that one can always make a dollar , even as a private contractor if one so desires, and none can take that away.
IMHO , our schools do a poor job of guiding our youth to these career fields , giving them the impression that everyone needs an expensive four college degree to achieve any type of success in the job market, and that is simply not true.