Trade schools seeing record enrollments in 2023

Skilled trade workers like plumbers and electricians are in high demand, and Gen Z is starting to take notice as enrollment at trade schools has been skyrocketing. 

On Thursday, Putnam Northern Westchester BOCES held a job fair for young people to show them the kind of careers they could look forward to.

A chance to find a lucrative career outside a traditional classroom setting turned out to be just perfect for Ryan Macartney, a BOCES trade student. He fell in love with cars when he was just 12, wanting to not only race them but work on them as well. 

"I just fell in love with it. I spent the whole summer out back finding whatever scrap metal I could find and weld something together" said Ryan.

His parents put him in the PNW BOCES program in his sophomore year because he wasn’t excelling in the traditional classroom setting.

Ryan visited the job fair on Thursday to network and prepare for future job opportunities. He is part of a growing number of young people who are ditching the idea of earning a college degree.

Skilled trade workers are in high demand, including plumbers, electricians, carpenters, and mechanics.

"It’s a pathway to something. And if you make that leap of faith, have faith and pursue the unknown end, and it will be there for you" said George Drapeau from the Construction Industry Council.

PNW BOCES has been training students to learn a trade for nearly 50 years and in 2023, the school has seen its biggest enrollment jump ever. More than 1,500 juniors and seniors are on campus learning a trade with hundreds of others wait-listed to get into some of the most popular programs.

"I think there’s been a real shift where it was college. Now we have all these openings for a career" said Cathy Balestrieri the director of career & tech at PNW BOCES.