By Julie Tomascik

It’s a personal choice—trade school, community college, a four-year university or getting a job right out of high school.

The options are many, but they all have a common bottom line: earning a living and building your legacy.  

Last week, I listened to Mike Rowe during the American Farm Bureau Virtual Convention. His voice is unique and widely recognized, but it’s the message he shares that leaves a lasting impression.

Hard work can be dirty and exhausting. But those dirty jobs can sometimes be the most rewarding. It’s not a new or profound message in rural America, but I think it’s one that more people need to hear.

Work isn’t the enemy, and it’s time to rediscover the opportunities all around us.

Trade schools can help.

Trade schools specialize in specific areas of skill. And with a certificate or a degree from a trade school, graduates have access to some of today’s most in-demand jobs.

Those are jobs that were deemed essential and critical during COVID-19.

Jobs that power our country and keep our technology up to speed.

Jobs that dish out our favorite cuisine and those that diagnose a glitch or turn a wrench.

Jobs that essentially keep America running.

Even with record unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of skilled jobs remain unfilled, because no one is trained or willing to do them.

Read as: We have a skills gap.

And folks, that’s a problem.

We are disconnected from the skilled and critical part of our workforce. Not just farmers and ranchers, but welders, mechanics, plumbers, electricians, pipefitters and everything in between. The jobs we all depend on.  

Trades shouldn’t be considered as a back-up career, because they are in fact viable, thriving careers.

The stigmas and stereotypes, however, discourage people from pursuing these jobs.

But change can start now. I think we need to reprogram the perception to appreciate hard work and skilled jobs.  

Or maybe we should call it what it really is: Talent. And regard it as highly as we do sports and celebrities.

Texas Farm Bureau aims to help those who want to pursue a technical degree from a trade school. If you or an immediate family member or legal guardian are members of Texas Farm Bureau, you may be eligible to receive the Texas Farm Bureau Scholarship from Texas State Technical College. Click here to find out more.

And if a trade school isn’t the route you wish to take, Texas Farm Bureau has scholarships available for high school seniors and enrolled college students. Click here for more details on eligibility and requirements.

Wherever your path may lead you, I wish you the best of luck and a prosperous future.