A few community colleges in our region have specialized programs that you don’t find just anywhere. Maybe your area has these kinds of opportunities too. Even if you don’t already live nearby, maybe one of these is perfect for you. Because all of these programs are located within the California Community College system, they are really inexpensive, at least for California residents. Even for out-of-state residents they are far cheaper than most college options:
The College of the Redwoods’ campus in Fort Bragg (northern California coast) has a well-established program in fine furniture, cabinetmaking and woodworking. http://crfinefurniture.com/
Feather River College’s equine studies program trains you to be a horse trainer, stable manager, riding instructor, a wrangler/packer/guide on horse pack trips, and other horse-related jobs. http://www.frc.edu/equinestudies/ This college is located in California’s high Sierras.
A former student of ours attended Moorpark College’s Exotic Animal Training and Management Program (EATM). You learn to be a zookeeper or animal trainer. This college has its own zoo and is located near Los Angeles. http://www.moorparkcollege.edu/current-students/teaching-zoo
Some people earn their living on recreational sailboats, as licensed Captains, sailing instructors, riggers, and yacht brokers. Most people just learn to sail by doing it, but southern California’s Orange Coast College’s School of Sailing and Seamanship would be a great place to pick up those skills and get some certifications. http://www.occsailing.com/
Santa Rosa Junior College, an hour’s drive from our school, has a Ranger Academy where you can learn the law enforcement aspects of becoming a park ranger. http://www.santarosa.edu/ps/ranger-academy.php It also has a Police Academy and a Fire Academy.
A former student of ours attended the Columbia College (Sonora, California) fire technology program to learn firefighting. http://www.gocolumbia.edu/career_technical/fire.php
The California Farm Academy in Winters, California trains young adults who did not grow up on a farm how to do it. Growing crops is the easy part. The hard part is getting access to farmland, generating a viable business plan and financing. They train you in how to do that. The cost is a few thousand dollars for a seven month program. This is a private, nonprofit organization, not a community college. http://landbasedlearning.org/farm-academy
Coding Schools and Software Development Bootcamps:
You actually can work in the “information economy” without a college degree. Where we live, technology companies are looking for computer programmers and data scientists. They don’t care where you went to college, or even if you went to college. They’ll hire you now if you have the up-to-date code writing skills they need. You can learn these specialized skills in a few months. In response to this situation, private “coding schools” or “development bootcamps” have sprung up in places like San Francisco, New York and Seattle. Their programs will teach you to write computer code, in a few months of intense long hours, for $10,000 – $20,000. Then you’re ready for a six-figure income working long hours for a technology firm. It’s much cheaper and quicker than college, and there are plenty of good-paying jobs at least in the short term. Silicon Valley is famous for boom-and-bust cycles, so of course there are no guarantees.
Is a coding school education as good as having a bachelor’s degree in computer science? That’s an unfair question, since it takes so much less time and money. It’s good enough for you to get your foot in the door during the boom times. After that it’s up to you to keep your skills current, as it is for any technology worker. Stories abound of baristas and waiters earning $100,000 + per year, just a few months after starting one of these programs. The typical coding school student already has a liberal arts college degree and is in his or her late twenties or early thirties, but there’s nothing to prevent an eighteen year old high school graduate who has a little prior knowledge of computers from going straight to coding school. Some eighteen year olds do. Here are some coding schools:
Dev Bootcamp (San Francisco, Chicago, New York) http://devbootcamp.com/
Galvanize (San Francisco, Denver, Seattle) http://www.galvanize.com/
App Academy (San Francisco, New York) http://www.appacademy.io/#p-home
Hack Reactor (San Francisco) http://www.hackreactor.com/
Coding Dojo (Seattle and San Francisco) http://www.codingdojo.com/
Fullstack Academy (New York) http://www.fullstackacademy.com/
San Francisco’s Holberton School is a two-year, project-based software engineering school that emphasizes diversity and charges its students no tuition upfront – you pay them a percentage of your salary for a few years once you are employed. https://www.holbertonschool.com/
PayPal’s Peter Thiel offers the Thiel Fellowship: a $100,000 grant and mentoring to quit college for two years to pursue your own entrepreneurial ideas in technology. He believes college is overrated. http://www.thielfellowship.org/
Community colleges can also give you a pathway to working in the technology sector without a four-year degree. For example, in our area Santa Rosa Junior College offers a certificate program in “Geospatial Technology.” This means you become proficient in Geographic Information System (GIS) software; essentially very high-tech digital maps with layers of information embedded in them. GIS is used in every office that needs maps for anything, which means just about everything in government. Architects and planners, developers, civil engineers, foresters, archaeologists, environmental consultants and nonprofit organizations, and many scientists also use GIS so with just the certificate you can become the technician who makes the maps. Which do you think is worth more to employers, this certificate or a B.A. in Environmental Studies? But this one takes only about a year and a half to earn. https://portal.santarosa.edu/srweb/SR_ProgramOfStudy.aspx?ProgramType=1&Program=003003&Version=2
Apprenticeships are better than Internships
At the Navy shipyard in Newport News, Virginia, college-age students at the Apprentice School are paid up to $54,000 a year to attend and are guaranteed a job at Huntington Ingalls Industries when they finish the program. They have a fancy campus; even sports teams. It’s a lot like college, except that you’re studying to be an electrician or pipe fitter and you are getting paid while you do it. This sort of program is common in Germany; less so here. The Apprentice School is unusual, and accepts only six percent of its applicants – sort of like the Harvard of apprenticeships. It is possible because Huntington Ingalls has one really big and reliable customer – the U. S. Navy. http://www.as.edu/
The Apprentice School may be unusual, but there are other industrial apprenticeships available that train you and pay you straight out of high school. Unlike colleges, there tends to be little information published about most of them on web sites. This can be an obstacle to the modern youth who is accustomed to finding everything online. You have to get past the “if it’s not online it doesn’t exist” mentality. Lots of great opportunities exist in your area that are not described online. Decide what trade or industry you want to work in, and have a face-to-face talk with someone local who already does that. He or she can tell you how to find an apprenticeship, if there any are available. For example, as an apprentice ironworker at the “University of Iron”, you can get paid $16/hour while you get trained to construct buildings and bridges out of steel beams. Your pay doubles when you finish the program. The nearest training center to our school is in Benicia, California, and there are other union training centers across California, Nevada and Arizona. Unions in other time zones offer similar programs. If you want to work on power lines, the California/Nevada Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee starts its apprentices at over $30/hour. San Francisco’s UA Local 38, Plumbers and Pipefitters Union has paid apprenticeships that start you at $22 – $26 per hour plus benefits. That compares pretty well with the dead-end, often unpaid “internships” so common among recent college graduates. These examples are just the tip of a vast iceberg of trade union apprenticeships. It makes no sense to try to list them all. Be assured that if any kind of skilled unionized work is being done in your region there is probably a paid apprenticeship available through the union, and the best way to find out more is to have a face-to-face talk with someone in it. There are few formal barriers to entry. Generally you need to be 18, have the legal right to work in the United States, and have a high school diploma and a driver’s license to begin.
University of Iron www.universityofiron.org
California/Nevada Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee http://www.calnevjatc.org/
UA Local 38 Plumbers and Pipefitters (San Francisco) http://www.ualocal38.org/
Perhaps you like boats and the sea? You can enlist in the Coast Guard straight out of high school. They train you, they pay you, and if you want they help pay for college later. http://gocoastguard.com/ Do some research, think about it, and then talk to a recruiter. Our local recruiting office is in Alameda, California. It goes without saying that you can enlist in the Army, Navy Air Force or Marines the same way. You just call your nearest recruiting office.