A young adult seeking to find where his/her fortune lies should begin thinking outside the box. A careful review of current market/job trends will upend conventional wisdom about where to find the best paying jobs. For instance, the legal profession is suffering from an oversupply of labor in the field. Law graduates are even beginning to take paralegal jobs – to pay off their 6-figure debt load! And many law schools are now laying off faculty and are quietly on the verge of imploding.  Med School? Well take a look at how many doctors are seeking to exit their profession since the Affordable Care Act came out. Although demand will accelerate, the ROI is just not there anymore.
An MBA provides some legitimacy but its hardly the ticket to a well-paid job.  And hearing that an MBA is equivalent credential to what used to be a 4-year undergraduate degree makes me more than a little frustrated (I have both). The impression that such a degree leads to a comfortable desk job can no-longer be sustained. If adamant about getting an MBA, make sure you have specialized knowledge outside of business (IT for instance) or are passionate about a hyper-specialized field within business (international accounting with a focus on auditing).

So the professions are taking a hit. And with businesses cutting costs, finding a good-paying 4-year degree-related job can be quite an ordeal. Hmmm, what to do? what to do?

If you’re a young adult, you may want to consider what the skilled trades have to offer. The latter have been quietly well-paid for decades.  College-bound adults typically overlook such positions because they prize a professional careers. In contrast, a tradesman’ status ” is considered between a laborer and a professional” (Wikipedia, Tradesman). Incidentally, GRAPE was not conceived as a group for those with professional careers but who view themselves as getting paid for their specialized knowledge (not amateurs, professionals).

Skilled Trades Training

So where to start? Many technical colleges have programs in IT and AutoCAD. But that can be overly expensive for some people. Another place to start is simply gaining experience on ‘the ground floor’. In this post, we profile two Grand Rapids employers who offer training in the skilled trades.

Commercial Tool and Die is a 100,000 sq. ft. machine shop located at 5352 Rusche Dr. NW in Comstock Park. The business was founded in 1953 by Al Bouwman, with the main purpose to deliver quality tooling in record time. Commercial Tool and Die manufactures plastic injection and die cast molds and has many sister companies that create fixtures, special machinery and custom molding. Over the years production has increased and demand for skilled employees has risen. Finding people with a certain skill trait is difficult, so they came up with a way to support the city and get the trained professionals they need.

Expert Tech is part of the solution to this problem. It is a 3 month program with online and in class training, sessions occur once a week in the PM, and one Saturday a month, so maintaining your current job is a possibility. To become part of Expert Tech you must apply, go through an interview process and if chosen pass a drug screening. Only a select are chosen, but success follows the lucky few. They partner with various companies around Grand Rapids that are in need of skilled workers in the trade. If you obtain a job through one of their accepted companies and maintain that position for one year, than you do not need to pay Expert Tech anything.

Like any education there are rules and regulations, but getting the opportunity to be educated in a career field that has many highlights for your future in only three months is an opportunity of a lifetime. Commercial Tool and Die is taking a step into the future to help better the community of Grand Rapids!


Written by Ashley Kennedy and John M Potter