Technical Education vs. University Degree: Which One Will Revitalize the Manufacturing Workforce?

December 20, 2018 by Midlothian Economic Development


The days of high school diplomas serving as an adequate qualification for acquiring a job in manufacturing are long gone. Today’s manufacturers require specialized certifications and technical training, in addition to traditional soft skills.

Within manufacturing, there are not enough employees for the jobs that fall between low-skill jobs (which require a high school diploma or less) and high-skill jobs (which require a bachelor’s degree or higher).

Graphic by / Statistics From USA Today

Technically-skilled employees are key to the long-term health of the industry, but with tuition rising and a skills gap widening, where is the balance between affordable education and a career path?

Enter technical education — a way for students of all ages to gain the skills, relationships, and hands-on instruction necessary to obtain a career with a competitive wage, and in a format that is more affordable than a university degree.

Technical Education vs. University Degree

While a traditional, four-year university can be the right choice and lead to success and stability for many people, it isn’t necessarily the best option for everyone. In many cases, technical schools can offer a more practical alternative, especially for recent graduates, adults returning to the workforce, or manufacturing workers looking to enhance their skillset toward a potential pay raise.

Choosing an educational path for post-secondary schooling or continuing education is not a simple decision anymore. Countless factors play into the decision, including career goals, time constraints, and financial situations.

Career Goals

All too often, students who graduate from a traditional university end up with significant debt and struggle to find a job within their desired career choice. Technical education, on the other hand, offers graduates the opportunity to find desired jobs faster, given that many of these specific jobs are in high demand. For example, technicians are in high demand across Texas as the state faces a skills gap — a trend that is expected to continue into next year.

For most technical careers, there are more job openings than workers. A variety of studies contend that during the 2015-2025 decade, out of the three-and-a-half million manufacturing jobs that will need to be filled due to baby boomer retirements and industry growth, two million jobs will go unfilled.

When manufacturing employers are competing for skilled talent, there are several advantages for graduates of a technical school, including:

  • More job opportunities

  • Less downtime between graduation and employment

  • Higher starting salaries and competitive wages

Time Commitment

Sometimes, attending a traditional university can be a drawback. Attending a university is an average four-year commitment, which typically delays the potential of relevant work experience for those four years.

In addition, university degrees can take even longer when paired with difficult life situations, daily duties, financial constraints, and works schedules. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, many students take more than six years to complete their degree and only 59% actually graduate. These students are not only racking up years of debt, but they are missing out on valuable years of experience in the workforce.

Technical education typically only takes one to two years to complete, which allows for more time spent in the workforce and less time in the classroom.

Financial Commitment

One of the more obvious benefits of technical education is that it offers students a way to bypass the financial commitments of a full degree program, while still obtaining required skills and valuable training for in-demand careers in the sector. And as tuition for a traditional university degree continues to rise, the financial benefits of technical education is becoming more evident.

According to CollegeBoard, the average tuition rose by $2,670 at public four-year institutions between 2008 and 2018, and by $7,390 at private nonprofit four-year universities.

While the cost of technical education varies, it is significantly less expensive than the cost of a university. Additionally, there are several scholarship opportunities available as manufacturers and economic development companies look to fuel the talent pipeline through partnerships with local colleges.

Right here in North Texas, Texas State Technical College is offering $1,000 scholarships to benefit TSTC students from Midlothian or from within the boundaries of the Midlothian Independent School District (MISD).

Apply for the Scholarship Today!

The Right Education for the Right Student

The job market is changing, affecting the educational paths of students globally and making it critically important now — more than ever — to increase awareness of technical schools and the viable, well-paying career paths they lead to.

Help Solve the Skills Gap

The TSTC Foundation’s Texan Success Scholarship is an “open fund” capable of receiving additional contributions from any person or organization. Industry partners are encouraged to contribute to the fund to help local students advance their education and increase the community’s pipeline of skilled workforce.

Contribute to the Scholarship Today!

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