Teens enter vocational school, come out with jobs, no debt

Eun Kyung Kim:

When he decided against going to a traditional high school, Warner Adams got teased. But now he’s getting the last laugh.

“People always make fun of vocational schools, but now they’re like, ‘Oh man, I wish I went there,’” said Adams, now a junior at Pathfinder Regional Vocational Technical High School, where every recent graduate found a job upon graduating.

In Massachusetts, where the school is located, the average starting salary in manufacturing is about $45,000. “I can make as much money as someone going to college, coming straight out of high school, and I don’t have to pay for college loans or anything like that,” Adams said.

Pathfinder is a beneficiary of a program called “Amp It Up,” a Massachusetts initiative to encourage students to explore careers in advanced manufacturing. Instead of offering dark and dusty shops full of woodworking or table saws, many vocational schools are now full of state-of-the art machines and computers that teach students code, programming and design skills.