Graduation, now what?

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Well, it’s that time of year again. All over the Capital Region and all over the country for that matter, college and high school campuses are teaming with proud parents and anxious graduates. Speeches are given by successful and often times famous individuals and politicians. Names are called, stunts are sometimes pulled, and hats are thrown into the air. Parties are held, gifts are given and diplomas are framed.

Graduation from either high school or college is one of those major events in our lives. It marks the end of one era and the opening of another. For many, it’s a joyful time, a time to celebrate years of hard work and sacrifice. But it can also be a time of uncertainty for the next chapter after graduating high school or college is not always clear.

For those leaving high school, the choice is often college. However, I have been saying for years that college is not for everyone. I believe strongly in promoting the trades to those young people who have a desire to learn them. Whether it be auto repair, electrical, plumbing, carpentry, etc.. learning a trade is often a skill that someone will have for life. And currently, the demand for those in the building trades is high.

For those that choose college, while graduating often meant a guaranteed job, sadly that is no longer the case in today’s economy. Roughly 50% of those who graduate this year will be unemployed for an extended period of time and will perform jobs for which a college degree was not required. And add to that this fact; Seven in 10 college seniors (71%) who graduated last year had student loan debt, with an average of $29,400 per borrower. From 2008 to 2012, debt at graduation (federal and private loans combined) increased an average of six percent each year.

My advice to those about to toss their hats into the air this year is simple. Work hard and then work even harder. Most CEO’s started on the ground floor and worked their way to the top. Secondly, listen to those who have been there and done that. Don’t discount the advice of those close to you who have been where you are now. And most importantly, never lose sight of your dreams. For the greatest failure in life is not that you never attained your dream but that you never tried.

I wish all of our graduates throughout Albany County and the Capital Region all the best as they close one door and open another. And as my mother always said, keep running into the walls until they tumble down.

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