NewsTalk

Welcome to the archives for NewsTalk, an IBJ blog published from November 2007 through December 2010.

Is college for everyone?

August 15, 2008
Parents and teachers for more than a generation have steered students toward college and white-collar work, and few states need the graduates more than Indiana, which has one of the lowest levels of college attainment in the country.

Lost in the attention, though, are jobs that donâ??t require a bachelorâ??s degree but still offer wages well above what many college grads earn.

Manufacturers often complain of being overlooked. So do electric utilities.

Increasingly, coal mining companies are joining the fray. Theyâ??re desperate for employees as baby boomers retire and the country increasingly turns to coal to meet its electricity needs.

Yet, the industry suffers from a stigma of black grime and pick axes, says Nat Nolan, president of the Indiana Coal Council, a trade group of mine companies.

The work still isnâ??t clean, and most of the new jobs are in underground mines. But the pick axes were traded for mechanized equipment and computers long ago, and safety is much improved from the explosion-ridden days of the past.

Mining companies are offering entry-level pay of $50,000 a year to workers who hold nothing more than high school diplomas. A couple of years of electrical training pushes the figure to about $70,000, and a few years of experience can result in a six-figure salary. Thatâ??s more than most beginning lawyers earn.

For people who simply donâ??t want to go to college, or know they arenâ??t college material, has the value of a college education been oversold?
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