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Not going to college? These careers that don't require a degree are in high demand

There are tons of careers out there that don't require a Bachelor's or a Master's degree, and those industries are always looking for workers.

SIMSBURY, Conn. — As college tuitions see all-time highs, and after COVID-19 ruptured all sorts of plans for people’s futures, what are high school graduates doing?

Students approaching high school graduation may have a multitude of reasons to forgo seeking a higher education degree at a four-year university. Those reasons are as complex as the trillions of dollars worth of student loan debt nationwide, or as simple as “it’s not a good fit for me.”

Last October, 61.8% of 2021 high school graduates ages 16 to 24 were enrolled in a college or university, according to a 2022 report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It's nearly down 1% from the year before. And in 2019, it was at 66.2%.

This means, that in pre-COVID 2019, one-third of young adults who had just graduated high school in the U.S. was not in college.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a bit of a dip in employment after college.

Of all of the people in their 20s who received a bachelor's degree in 2021, 74.8% were employed, up from 67.3% in 2020, due in part to the COVID pandemic. Before the pandemic in 2019, 76% of that group was employed.

Regardless, there are tons of careers out there that don't require a bachelor's or a master's degree, and those industries are always looking for workers. If you or your child wants to go to work right after high school, we took a look at some options to look into.

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Entrepreneurship 

Becoming a business owner and/or an entrepreneur is one option students can aspire to be, even without a bachelor's degree to show for it. For Simsbury resident Elijah Livingston, he’s been living that reality less than a year after graduating high school.

He enjoyed creating business ideas throughout high school and even launched an LLC – Poika Merchandise -- with a friend to sell school merch. That passion to offer a product for others to enjoy has stayed constant for Livingston.

“I’m able to go out and talk to people and meet new people every day and help them at the same time which is really important. And no problem’s the same so for me," Livingston said. "It’s really cool to be able to troubleshoot and problem solve different problems in hopes of helping that person in whatever the problem could be at that point.”

Now, he’s the owner of CT Pet Fence, which sells and installs Pet Stop brand electric fencing for pet owners in the northwestern part of the state. He and his family first found Pet Stop products years back when they needed to fence in their dogs, who became notorious at the time for wandering the neighborhood. It came full circle during the search for a business to invest in.

“No. 1, the product that will help me and something I see value in. I have two dogs myself that they’re not perfect dogs, they like to roam the neighborhood," Livingston explained. "Being able to find a product for me that solved my problems allows me to be able to help solve others is what I think is really valuable about this product.”

Livingston thanks his high school entrepreneurial experience as well as the many business classes offered at Simsbury High School, as he uses the skills he has learned from there every day.

Even with applying for business loans, learning the ropes of installing electric fences, and constantly coordinating with staff and clientele, Livingston said the biggest challenge was “getting started.”

“Go with your gut and you have to work hard. It’s not always going to be the easiest route but it’s the most rewarding I think, truly,” Livingston said.

His family was a big support system throughout the process for Livingston. They worked as a team to find the right business for Elijah to take over.

“My dad has always been a big example for me, he’s been in entrepreneurship for as long as I’ve been born. So that was kind of the example of what I had growing up,” he said.

There are resources available to people looking to become an entrepreneur or pursue business ownership.

Middlesex Community College offers an Entrepreneurship Certificate program. Click here for information on the courses.

The Connecticut Small Business Development Center has a plethora of resources for those starting a small business, with full-time advisors on hand to help along the way.

HELP WANTED: List of Connecticut businesses hiring

Apprenticeships in trade

Hands-on skills are high in demand and have always been. Apprenticeships have been around for centuries, with the Fitzgerald Act enacted into U.S. law in 1937 establishing the program on a national level.

Connecticut's Department of Labor’s apprenticeship program focuses on an “earn while you learn” approach.

"An employer hires a new individual, registers them as an apprentice with our office and we administer that program with the employer. To have an individual go to a way a company wants them to do their tasks," said Todd Berch, director of the Registered Apprenticeship Program.

Berch oversees the program, working with employers and apprentices from dozens of industries, from plumbing, electrical, manufacturing, and now, nursing.

Many of the industry programs need little funding, but a $10 million grant was formed during the pandemic to bring CNAs and nursing students right into the action.

"The medical field has used the word ‘residency’ for decades. They’re starting to warm up to the word apprenticeship," Berch added.

Across the board, it can take two to four years to complete the program.

"It’s what they call the 'original four-year degree'. It’s just like going to a college and learning about occupations and getting an actual diploma,” Berch said.

There's high demand not only from employers seeking workers but also from people aspiring to join the apprenticeship program.

“We have seen a dramatic uptick due to the fact that three highly utilized industry sectors or apprenticeship or healthcare, manufacturing, construction – it didn’t slow down, in fact, they augmented during this time. So we’ve seen an uptick.”

The pay in the industries is "well above minimum wage," according to Berch.

"I have a lot of manufacturing students right now who have graduated in their certificate program two years ago making well over $80,000 a year,” he added.

Berch's advice to high school students looking to take on a trade after graduation or for anyone searching for a new career is to go to any local American Job Center. There are resources for searching people searching for jobs, workshops and veteran services, and there are also resources for recruiting employers.

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Reach out to recruiters

Even during times without a staffing and supply chain shortage, companies have always been looking for staff to join their teams.

Staffing and temp agencies are constantly in touch with companies to find the right skilled candidate for the job.

Robert Half connects companies with candidates and vice versa all over the world, including Connecticut. They said the state's job market is unique for all of the headquarters and insurance companies stationed here. They specialize in helping people find jobs in the office, remote, or hybrid.

"We focus on accounting and finance as well as administrative and customer support. But we also have an IT division, a marketing and creative group, as well as a legal team,” said Sara Pileski, regional director at Robert Half.

They advise high school graduates to be flexible when finding their first job out of school.

"Be proactive, you know, look for different ways to build your work history. So maybe that's an internship. Maybe that's a volunteer assignment, registering with a staffing firm," Pileski said.

Networking is key, too. Tell everyone you know that you're looking for work, and join professional networking websites like Linkedin, Pileski advised.

"You just never know who someone knows or where someone works," She added.

Candidates would meet up with someone from Robert Half, where they'll gather the candidate's background, skillset, and what they're looking for. They'll also assess a candidate's skills to help find them positions they're qualified for. There's no cost to the candidate.

Even if the process takes a while, it's important to keep at it until something sticks.

"The more you interview, the more you get your resume out there, the better chance that something's going to stick and you're going to get that interview and get that job," Pileski said.

Check job boards daily, and remember, "Your first job does not have to be the perfect job."

There are also many non-profit organizations that are hiring. The United Way, for example, has dozens of jobs available across the country that only require a high school diploma.

On the state level, Connecticut's Department of Labor usually holds networking and recruiting events as well as job fairs through the American Job Center. These events can be done in person or virtually.

Leah Myers is a digital content producer at FOX61 News. She can be reached at lmyers@fox61.com

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