Successful careers can start at a vocational or trade school where you can pick up training for a variety of skilled jobs. Programs can be completed in as little as a week, though most take about a year. Graduates typically earn a certificate in a particular skill. Costs vary depending on the school and length of training.
Vocational programs also offer a way to quickly explore a new career that taps into one's real passions. Joy Inouye always enjoyed baking, but as a graduate student in sociology with a likely teaching career ahead of her, she wasn't sure she could turn her kitchen pastime into a real job. She enrolled in a pastry class at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn. She liked it so much, she took other cooking classes and now plans to transition to a full-time job in the food service industry.
"I have been so impressed with the quality of instruction at the College of DuPage," says Inouye. "It's a great program."
For those interested in the hospitality industry, the College of DuPage offers programs in baking, culinary arts, foodservice administration, and hotel management. A certificate takes about a year to earn. Students can also add general education courses to earn an associate degree, which takes about two years to complete. Next year, the College of DuPage opens its new foodservice and hospitality building. It will feature two restaurants, a bake shop and six hotel rooms where students can get real hands-on experience. Other local training programs for jobs in the hospitality industry are available. Foodservice programs are offered by local community colleges, Kendall College, and Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts. For a quick career change, ABC Bartending School has locations in Chicago, Mount Prospect and Franklin Park. The basic 40-hour training program teaches students how to run a bar. Students learn a variety of tasks from operating a computer ordering system to mixology, the art of cocktail preparation. Longer training programs are available. Students also receive instruction on responsible alcohol service. A summer promotion offers the basic bartending course for $299.
In the past, handy teens could learn a trade in high school shop class. Those classes are scarce today, but vocational programs offer training for automotive, manufacturing and welding careers.
The Illinois Welding School has locations in Romeoville and Bartonville, near Peoria. According to school president Debra Glanton, the country faces a shortage of about 200,000 welders as older practitioners retire. Students learn the different types of welding needed for pipe work, manufacturing and construction. Students are also taught how to read blue prints and to interpret welding symbols. Courses range from 10 to 30 weeks. Tuition starts at about $4,700 and includes fees and books, as well as welding jackets and hoods. There's also a two-week course. It allows students to try welding to see if they like it before committing to a long course. Certificates in manufacturing technology are offered by the College of DuPage. Areas of specialization include drafting/design, automated manufacturing, computer-aided design, mold making and tool and die making. Housed in a new building, the program also offers certificates in automotive technology and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning design.
Certificates take about two years to earn at a cost of about $4,000. And despite the bad publicity about the loss of manufacturing jobs, James Filipek, associate professor of manufacturing technology at the College of DuPage says: "Manufacturing is still the second largest employment sector in DuPage County."
No one wanted a reminder like this, but the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico highlights the importance of careers in environmental technology. Wilbur Wright College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago, offers a hazardous material management program. Students earn a certificate by taking six courses learning how to handle dangerous chemicals and waste products. Graduates are hired as health and safety experts by corporations, city governments, industrial and transportation operations, and hospitals.
Wilbur Wright also offers a six-class certificate in emergency management. Courses cover leadership, incident command, planning and emergency operations.
The health care field offers many opportunities for skilled employees. "Hospitals are emphasizing cost containment, which means more work is being delegated to vocational workers," says Janet H. Davis, dean of the college of nursing and health services at Robert Morris University, Chicago.
For example, pharmacists now provide services such as immunizations, so more pharmacy technicians are needed. The certified pharmacy technician program at Robert Morris offers an associate degree. Students complete internships at a retail location and a hospital.
Robert Morris also offers a 40-week medical assistant program. Graduates are certified in electronic health records or phlebotomy - drawing blood samples.
Fitness is also a growing field. Robert Morris offers a 15-month program for personal trainers. Graduates are hired by health clubs, or fitness centers. Many graduates start their own private fitness training business. Another expanding job category is massage therapy as hospitals and long-term care facilities add this service. Massage therapists can earn as much as $40 an hour, practitioners say.