Choosing the right road


My first experience in dealing with the pressures of the world came when I was six years old. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I froze. As my first-grade teacher patiently waited, I should have just blurted out the truth. Instead, I frantically searched my six-year-old brain for what I thought would have been the correct answer. “A cowboy,” I said, then immediately switched it to “a doctor”. I knew what I really wanted to say, ”I’m gonna be a truck driver with a big red Mack truck. Yeah, and I’m gonna go straight through school without worrying about taking Latin or Algebra II, or Biology, and the day after high school graduation, I’ll be roaring past you with the chrome exhaust stacks belching smoke and my air horn clearing the road.” Well, that sounded real good to me right then and it was the truth, but that plan didn’t work out. I did, however, get a bright red Texaco tank truck for Christmas that year. I don’t know how many first graders these days have a burning passion to become a truck driver, a plumber, an auto mechanic, or an electrician, but if you happen to check on the latest salaries of those occupations, you might get a little eye-opener about careers in this new economy.

Back in 1960, thanks to Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, George L. Smith, III and a group of local legislators and active citizens, Swainsboro was in the running to get one of the first Technical Schools built in the State of Georgia. Swainsboro Tech opened here in 1963. It was an innovative step in education, and has changed generations and generations of lives in the last 60 years. Today the concept of secondary vocational and adult education is definitely enjoying more validation than ever before. Given the debate surrounding cost versus value of a conventional 4-year college degree and the out of control default of college student debt, more and more career plans are considering institutions like our very own Southeastern Technical College for a solid career plan forward. In this era of evolving economies, risky employment environments, and shifting market variables, planning a future that is tailored to target actual “real world”conditions and job market realities just sort of makes sense.

Actually, it makes "dollars and cents". According to ZipRecruiter, that truck driving job of my childhood dreams, now pays an average of $78,000 a year for an over-the-road driver with basic level experience. Today, a licensed electrician with three years’ experience earns an average of $61,000. The plumber comes in at $56,000, and the automotive technician with ASE certification can expect a national average start of around $48,000 a year. The best part is that the upward rise of skill and scale and the universal demand for experience in the trades stays with you no matter where you might go. A good example is the projected increase in the number of truckers that will be required right here in our region for the new Hyundai auto assembly plant in Bryan County. The same is true nationwide where it is calculated that one million new truck drivers will be needed in the next ten years just to maintain the current commerce level.

So, while it might be a little too late to start my truck driving career, there's plenty of time for those out there who are just starting out, or just starting over. Now, possibly more than ever, the working world is searching for people who have the preparation with the essential, specialized skills to keep the wheels turning, the lights on and the country strong. That preparation is available from a variety of sources right here in our community. So if you are looking ahead, career wise, do your research, choose your road carefully and make sure the option you pick is the right one for you. Whether you're six or sixty, the opportunities are out there, and they're mean't for everybody It might be getting harder and harder to say the same about 4 years of college.