With the cost of a college education continuing to shoot higher, many teens and their families are considering options that can lead to great careers but don’t cost a small fortune.

Michele Siekerka, the president and CEO of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, said attending a traditional four-year college is still an important and viable option for some. For others, they can "earn and learn."

"That means going to trade schools, going to proprietary schools that offer particular skills in high demand jobs," she said.

New Jersey 101.5 is presenting a Town Hall on alternatives to college. The program will air 7 p.m. Thursday and can be watched on nj1015.com or the New Jersey 101.5 page on Facebook.

Plenty of options

Siekerka said the New Jersey Pathways to Career Opportunities program, in conjunction with the New Jersey Council of County Colleges, is focused on creating “a very clear articulated pathway in order to enable today’s students to walk right into the jobs that are going to be available to them tomorrow.”

“We bring our companies to the table, advocating and advising for the exact skillset that you need, so a student can walk in and fill that job tomorrow. It is our businesses that guide and help to align the academics to ensure the student comes out prepared.”

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Aaron Fichtner, the president of the New Jersey Council of County Colleges, said the economy is changing rapidly and county college students are now able to get the specific skill sets they need to advance in a number of fields, including “cybersecurity, which I think we have all seen is an important part of our future, to logistics, to advanced manufacturing to patient care."

Fichtner said “community colleges offer that unique opportunity for students of any age to get industry-valued credentials that will help them get jobs, and the opportunities are quite diverse across the economy.”

Siekerka said some high school seniors may not want to go to school for another four years “and we have many opportunities for them to build skills that will lead to a job here in New Jersey that would afford them the opportunity to earn a good salary where they can live, work and raise a family here in the state of New Jersey.”

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at david.matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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