The president is … right to suggest that instead of going to college by default, people should consider skipping college and going into a skilled trade. When I was in New York promoting my book, The New School, I met a man who had done just that. He dropped out of college to become an electrician, developed a specialty in that field, and now charges $360 an hour. Most lawyers would be happy to bill that much, and he didn’t have to pay for college and law school. (And, since he was attending my talk, he obviously has managed to maintain an active intellectual life!)
Some college-educated people are switching to skilled trades because it offers better pay. But if they’d gone that route to begin with they’d have saved time and money. Why didn’t they? Because guidance counselors generally encourage students to go to college. So encouraging people to consider a skilled trade, rather than mindlessly going to college because going to college is “what everybody does,” is a good idea.
But while there are excellent reasons why people should consider being a good welder, rather than a bad sociologist, that’s not the only choice. Some people make better welders, others make better mathematicians, some make better chefs, and some make better art historians.