Two years out of high school, Evan Fischbach is earning $40,000 a year. His secret: shop class.
Fischbach, 19, has known he wanted to work on cars ever since he took an automotive class in his junior year of high school in Saline, Michigan. His college-educated parents wondered if he was aiming too low.
Then when Fischbach was still a junior, a local auto dealer desperate for mechanics hired him as an apprentice in the service bay. Now he’s earning about three times as much as the average 19-year-old high school grad and slightly more than the national median, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Friends weren’t interested in auto shop when I suggested it and now I think they wished they had tried it,” said Fischbach, who works at the LaFontaine Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram dealership. “I’m not rich, but I’m not hurting, either.”
Fischbach is an all too rare success story that educators, legislators and executives are eager to replicate. With schools focused on preparing kids for college, shop class has gone the way of stenography class in much of the U.S. Companies from Toyota Motor Corp. to Siemens AG and International Business Machines Corp. are pushing high schools to graduate students with the real-world skills business needs.
The message is getting through. This year, for the first time in a decade, the U.S. government boosted funding for high school and college vocational education, though the $1.125 billion war chest is $188 million smaller than it was in 2004.