Co-Founder, Movinhand / Enrollhand
Prior to co-founding Movinhand, Recruithand and Enrollhand, Andreas was successfully leading a multi-million European business group through building high-value customer relationships. He helps school leaders benefit from the changing business environment through mentoring them on growth strategies, digital marketing, story telling and branding.
Co-Founder, Movinhand / Enrollhand
Reviving the Skilled Trades: Your Guide to Boosting Enrollment in Trade Schools9 min read
There’s a high demand for the skilled trades. Always was, and always will be.
Twenty-one percent of the engineering workforce is made up of specialists. Welders, fitters, electricians, machinists, and technicians. They’re all vital to the industry and lately also in short supply.
Despite this, blue-collar workers are often underappreciated.
In this article, we’ll show you how to boost enrollments in trade schools by understanding all the factors involved.
Let’s start with some context before we get to your plan of action!
The Skilled Trade Stigma
Trade schools, also known as vocational schools, were seen as a “dumping ground” for students who didn’t excel in the traditional academic environment.
“The early vocational education was driven by a philosophy of fitting people to their probable destinies,” said Jim Stone, director of the National Research Center for Career and Technical Education.
“Kids from poor families were tracked off into becoming the worker bees. Others were tracked off to go to universities and be the intelligentsia,” he added.
This remains somewhat true today. Many parents in the US want their children to earn a Bachelor’s Degree. An office job in a company is seen as reliable. The old “you must be a lawyer or doctor” anecdote still remains a factor too.
A Bright Future For Trade Schools
The current realities of the job market make job security and a steady income vital. This is great news for trade schools. In the spring semester of 2016, roughly 6 percent of the total college population were enrolled in technical, vocational and career schools.
Trade schools around the country are slowly getting the attention of young students and even adult learners.
“People now have a much higher view of vocational schools, which have taken on a much more qualitative tone,” said business historian Bruce Weindruch.
It may take decades before the American population learns to fully embrace trade schools as essential to the US education system. The tide is certainly changing though, and you play a huge role.
A Constructive Plan Of Action!
While certain stigmas remain, things are looking up. As a trade school operator, you are a vital part of the industry. The effective marketing of your school will benefit both the industry and your enrollment numbers!
Here’s what you need to do.
1. Earn the trust of your prospective families
Before prospects can trust you, they need to know you. Defining your brand is the first step.
Earning their trust means you they need to see the benefits you offer. This also includes the benefits of the industry in general.
Effective enrollment marketing makes use of funnels which gradually draw prospects closer to your school. The more organic, the better.
Gaining trust also applies to forging human connection too.
A social event where families can meet the faculty and see the school is great for forging a relationship of trust with the community.
Here, Florida Technical College used Facebook to promote their Summer Social event.
Social media is an absolute necessity when it comes to marketing your school. More about that shortly!
2. Identify your audience
Trade schools have various formats and need to identify, attract, and engage their specific audience.
Promoting the concept of trade schools should also be a part of the marketing plan! Focus on sparking their interest and introducing the option of going to a trade school.
Your role is both spokesperson for your school and the skilled trade industry as a whole. Your marketing efforts should reflect both for maximum effect.
3. Effective use of Social Media
You need to speak to students in a language that they can easily understand. The easiest way to do this is to use social media. Spark the interest of students by using Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to share what your school has to offer. Attract them with photos and videos.
Social media is a great avenue to share thoughts, opinions, discussions, and more. It’s also a convenient way to post up-to-date information and communicate directly to students.
The Southeastern Technical College in Georgia did a wonderful job of utilizing Facebook and Twitter to create a social media presence for their school.
Here’s a peek at their Facebook and Twitter pages:
If you don’t have social media accounts, start now! Facebook and Twitter pages are easy and free to set up. Running them effectively doesn’t have to be difficult either, as long as you have the right advice!
4. Expand awareness about your program offerings
It’s amazing how many programs schools are able to offer nowadays. This is particularly true in trade schools. Your courses are your features, and you need to promote them individually!
A great way to do that is posting about the different classes on your Facebook page. Listing your courses is great, but going into detail and promoting the options individually is very effective too.
Look at this post by the Atlanta Technical College. It’s visually attractive and really highlights the fact that they have a wide variety of options.
Here, Blackhawk Technical get specific about their Fire Protection course on Facebook.
5. Share your success stories
Inspiration is a powerful tool in convincing students to choose your school. If they see that your alumni are happy and successful, prospects will feel more confident about trusting you with their education.
There are many ways to showcase the success of your former students.
The Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics created a blog post to showcase the achievement of their 2017 valedictorian. He landed a job with Republic Airlines at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C.
Meanwhile, the University of Nebraska released a video about alumni who recently created a successful recruitment campaign.
Inspire your prospects by telling the stories of your successful graduates.
6. Promote the industry!
Remind people of how important the industry is. Stress the fact that there are many high paying jobs out there for trade school graduates.
Future job security is a powerful motivation that will convince students to enroll. It’s also a top motivating factor for parents too.
Here, Lake Area Technical Institute does a wonderful job of reminding prospects that there is a solid future for their graduates.