In recent years, there has been a notable shift in the landscape of post-secondary education. The average age of people working in the trades is within 10 years of retirement, and the number of young people entering the trades is not keeping pace.

If the current trend continues, the sector will not be able to fill all the open positions of those who retire in the next decade. While traditional four-year colleges and universities have long been the go-to choice for many students, with a surplus of openings in skilled trades, there is a growing trend toward vocational programs and trade schools. These institutions, which focus on teaching specific trades and skills, are gaining popularity at a remarkable pace.

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, enrollment in vocational programs has seen a substantial 16 percent increase from 2022 to 2023, a trend that shows no signs of slowing down. Mechanic and repair trade programs alone saw an 11.5% rise in student numbers. This rise in enrollment is indicative of the burgeoning demand for skilled technicians in various sectors, including the automotive, machinery, and construction trades.

What sets trade schools apart from traditional higher education institutions is their specialized training and relatively shorter programs. This makes them an appealing option for individuals who are eager to enter the workforce quickly. However, despite the numerous benefits, cost remains a significant concern for many prospective students. The tuition fees associated with trade programs can still pose a barrier, especially for those from lower-income backgrounds.

Fortunately, there is hope on the horizon for aspiring skilled trade professionals. Scholarships for trade schools are becoming increasingly available from a variety of sources, ranging from the federal government to trade unions and local community foundations. These scholarships play a crucial role in making trade education more accessible and affordable for students from all walks of life.

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Joanne and Gene Cable

Gene and Joanne Cable, owners of Cable Chevrolet for nearly 40 years, actively served and supported the Eastern Jackson County region both with talent and treasure. When Gene passed away in 2022 at the age of 96, Joanne chose to honor her late husband by establishing a scholarship in memory of Gene in the hopes that it will support others who are pursuing careers in the automotive industry. This act of community support and shared responsibility is a testament to the belief in the potential of trade education and the importance of investing in the future of our industries.

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Hunter McMullen

This year's recipient of the Gene Cable Automotive Scholarship is Hunter McMullen. Hunter graduated from Lee’s Summit North this spring and is pursuing the General Motors Automotive Service Educational Program (ASEP) at MCC Longview with the aim of becoming a world-class technician. Hunter is employed at Cable Dahmer Chevrolet as a Lube Technician and has already earned multiple ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certifications through Herdon Career Center's automotive technology program.

“The scholarship allows me to attend college [and] afford tools,” Hunter said in his thank you letter to the scholarship selection team. “I hope to be able to pay my mom back for all she’s done for me someday, using the job provided by this program.” And with an average starting salary of GM ASEP grads of $59,000, his mom is surely in for a real treat.

The growing popularity of trade schools reflects a shift in the perception of non-traditional education pathways. As the demand for skilled workers continues to rise across various industries, trade schools serve as an invaluable resource for individuals seeking rewarding and high-demand careers. With the availability of scholarships, like the Gene Cable Automotive Scholarship, more students can now pursue their passion for skilled trades without the burden of overwhelming financial barriers.