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Time to Have a Talk With Your Parents

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Two of my four children live in State College, where they work in restaurants after failing to graduate from Penn State and the University of Houston — one because he hated school and one because he got distracted by other things.

When I was in high school, my parents assumed my sister and I would go to college. I did; my sister didn’t, but she got a terrific union job that has left her with a comfortable pension.

We were talking about this publication on our family chat and my oldest son complained that I never talked to him about a job in the trades. I responded that he never suggested it himself.

So if you don’t think college is right for you, my advice is this: Talk to your parents about it. Talk to them if you don’t like the idea of paying off student loans. Or if the thought of sitting in classes and writing essays about Russian literature makes you want to throw up. Or if you just like to work with your hands.

I know how they may respond: “You’ll make more money with a college degree. You’ll come home dirty and exhausted each night. We’ve worked hard so you can have a better life than we do.”

Think about their likely objections and come up with answers. 

I asked a few people who work in trades that don’t require a degree: How did they convince their parents that their chosen career was right for them? Frankly, the best response I got came from Raelynn Grogan, the director of education for the Delaware Restaurant Educational Foundation. 

(In this year’s STUFF, we’re focusing on career options in manufacturing, construction, financial services and health care. But I sent Raelynn’s comments to people who work in construction and manufacturing, and they all said their answers would be variations of hers.)

Here’s what Raelynn had to say:

I came from a big family, and at the center of our gatherings was always food. It was our bonding, plus all of the best conversations happened in the kitchen! I knew that if I was going to be doing something for the rest of my life, I wanted it to be something that I loved. I have never looked back.

Over the past 11 years, I have been a hostess, busser, expo, server, line cook, shift manager, clubhouse assistant manager, restaurant manager, director of education (which has encompassed program coordinator, event planner, instructor, proctor, workforce development coordinator, apprenticeship director and grant writer). My advice for students would be to highlight all of the opportunities that this industry has to offer. The opportunities are endless if you work hard and stay focused.

I work with students who wish to pursue the same pathway. A big part of my job today is to promote college and career opportunities for our ProStart Program students in our Delaware high schools. … I also educate their parents and the public that this industry is not just about culinary arts and restaurant management (which is what my parents saw back then and what I firmly believe parents still see today). In this industry, you can do any of the positions I have held above, plus photography, videography, sales, marketing, operations, human resources, accounting, or become a chocolatier, sommelier or brewer.

The opportunities are endless!! You can climb the ladder … in this industry faster and smoother than any other. I am completely, simply, utterly in love with it. In return, my parents fell in love with this industry by watching my passion continuously grow.

But before you can launch into one of the many career paths the trades have to offer, you have to start the discussion. If you love video games, then a construction job piloting drones may be the path for you.

So read this publication. Talk to your guidance counselor or one of your parents’ friends who does something you think you might love to do. Ask if you can spend the day with them to see what it’s really like.

I would like to think that I’d have embraced the idea of my kids doing something other than two years of college. (It would have saved me $80,000). So sit down with your parents — maybe at your favorite restaurant — and tell them what you love. They’ll see the look in your eyes, the passion, and hopefully they’ll agree that you can explore the possibilities together.


Questions to Help You Start a Conversation With Your Parents

• Why is it so important to you that I go to college after graduation?

• What do I need to get a job doing?

• The price of college just keeps going up and I worry about being in debt for the rest of my life. Do you see any alternatives?

• I really love. Can you help me figure out how I might make that a career?

• Can you introduce me to people who might be able to give me some advice on my career path?

• Would you be open to me going to a school where I can earn my associates degree and work, while I figure things out?

By Peter Osborne 

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