Go to College, or Go to Work?

Union electricians getting ready to go to work on a transformer in Boston


As a senior in Ipswich I have a lot of decisions to make this year. What picture do I want for the yearbook? Do I like my quote? Should I do bridge program? Will I play lacrosse in the spring, or will I even have time? Then there is the big question; where will I go to college? Most kids, by junior year, will tell you where they want to go, what they want to be, and how well they did on their SATs. I was not so sure myself of any of that, especially the part about where I wanted to go. I had an idea of what I wanted to do, but no idea of what schools offered a program that suited my needs, not to mention I hadn’t even taken SATs until this past October. You may say I’m a little behind the eight ball; you may say I’m dumb for not knowing what I’m going to do with my life, or you may say, “Crap! I’m in the same spot.”

Again, is college really what I need? Is there something else I can do? Since I like making money, why not go to work, instead of college? Maybe I could go into the union like my dad, and his dad, and his dad before him? These apprentice electricians make decent money, have great benefits, and have consistent raises after their first year. This has always been a strong possibility for me. The union pretty much promises unlimited growth in your career as long as you are willing to work hard for it. For someone unable to attend college for any reason I strongly suggest Local 103 as a possible career. Every male in my family since 1920 has been in the union and it has always treated them right. The Konings have done well in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers or IBEW. My great grandfather (Gen.1) and my grandfather and his brother (Gen.2) each started their own companies within the union, and two of the three of them are still in operation today. This is why I believe the union is such a great opportunity as opposed to college.

College is the path that about 66% of high school graduates will take and I am going to be one of them, hopefully. College provides great opportunities for people in today’s economy and many employers look for some level of college education when looking for potential employees. Ronnie Koning, State Electric Corp. CEO, went into the union after graduating in 1981 and he believes, “You need to have a college degree to be successful today; there is too much competition to get by on the merits of hard work anymore.” Once you complete your degree a whole new world of opportunity has been opened up to you. College grads make, on average, $30,000 more a year than someone with just a high school diploma. On the other hand, there is always the burden of debt, and most grads are going to have it. Someone with an average income of $51,000 and a debt of the average of $30,000 may take almost seven years to pay off their debt. While the apprentice has received his $30,000 free education and has become a journeyman electrician and is making about $42 per hour, all profit. Although college may not be necessary for some, there are definitely careers that require a college education. For example, I don’t want some kid who watched a YouTube video on open heart surgery cutting me open.

In conclusion, you are going to have some decisions to make. It may be clear or you may struggle with what path you want to take, but no matter what you decide to do after high school, hard work will bring you anywhere you want to go.