College student looking to work for a year

My 18 year old is home from his first year of college, like everyone else due to Covid 19. Since he has been home he says he'd like to take next year off from school and work in some sort of manual labor job, and is open to anything, just not an office type of setting.  I am not surprised by this as he has never loved school, but managed to graduate high school and go on to his first year of college. I had actually encouraged him to work for a year before going to college, because I had a feeling it might be a better match for him, but in the end he decided he wanted to start college. In high school, as a junior and senior he worked at a local store that required a lot of manual labor, and did so for as many hours as he could, so he has some experience in this area. He's going to finish this year of school, which has moved online, while he looks for work. He says he'd like to eventually finish school, and may take a class at a community college next year while he works. I am looking for some advice or ideas for him, such as a work study program, trade school, volunteer program, any non-traditional college classes that are not 100% in a classroom, talk to a career counselor?...I am not sure what I am looking for to be quite honest, just trying to help him explore this area. Thank you in advance!

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Where my family is from - England - gap years and INTERNSHIPS are super common and I think a great idea. Doing "manual labor" for a year with no longer term goal in mind doesn't make sense to me. But carefully selecting a profession that involves being outdoors and working with your hands, sounds great. Why don't you tell him you'll completely support him in this if he researches such a path, goes to a few informational interviews with people who are successful in that profession, and chart a plan that involves his self-created internship, followed by getting a degree that will help him on that path? For example, I have a good friend who's a successful landscape designer. She's outdoors much of the day with her team, and has been all her life. She has her degree in LD, and has taken continuing ed programs as part of her license. She lives in a nice house in a good area, so she's doing well. A reasonable first step in this path would be interning with a landscape designer.

Laney College has vocational education programs, including carpentry, welding, machining, HVAC systems. I'm not sure whether/how those programs might be adapted to online learning but they are good to know about. The carpentry program builds tiny houses for the homeless, so students are doing good while acquiring marketable skills. My daughter took a carpentry class there a couple of summers ago; she's currently finishing a 4-year degree but enjoyed learning her way around power tools.

I think that it is really cool that your kid is going on this exploration of himself, and that you are supportive of his choices. He sounds very solid.These are just a few anecdotal thoughts on what's out there: the push has been so great for everyone to go to college for the last 20+ years that few folks have explored the Trades, and there's a shortage of skilled folks out there. Just now we are seeing a return of job-training programs (aka vocational courses) in our high schools. A number of tradespeople are willing to take on apprentices these days: plumbers, masons, construction. He could start by reaching out to tradespeople you've worked with and asking them if they are interested, or if they know someone who might be. I also know several college students who work summer jobs doing trail maintenance for the parks and LOVE it; they live in a camp for a couple of months, do hard manual labor all day long, get fed and "housed" for the summer. Of course, who knows what will happen....

He may be interested in becoming a backflow assembly tester. Backflow assemblies are devices used to protect the drinking water from being contaminated when there is a connection to something like a boiler or irrigation system that uses chemicals. These devices are everywhere and they are required to be tested annually by certified testers. Here's a video of what a tester does. And here's a pretty simple explanation of what backflow is and why it's important.

To get certified he would need to take a 40 hour class and then a written and hands on test. Once certified he can work for a company or agency (and there are usually plenty of vacant positions) where they go around and test the devices to make sure they are working. Most of the companies provide some mentorship so that new people aren't suddenly out on their own. Usually the person does need a driver's license.

The most local company that offers the certification class is in Sunnyvale: There is also one that offers classes in Santa Rosa and Morgan Hill:; and the American Water Works Association offers the class in Sacramento.

If you think he may be interested in this feel free to message me and I would be happy to talk to him more.

I think you are already doing all you should be doing by supporting and encouraging your son. He seems to be a bright and responsible young man very much in touch with who he is and what he likes or doesn't like. He will figure out his own path. I would keep open communication, but mostly observe from the sideline. Best wishes.

My son was not so into college and likes outdoor physical work. He went to the outdoor recreation leadership program at Feather River College a community college in Quincy, CA, for a year but after various adventures and then working for a couple different contractors for a few months (these were "no experience necessary" jobs he found on Craigslist), he completed a free 15 week San Francisco city program that prepares SF residents for paid, UNION building trades apprenticeships. He got a job immediately and has great benefits, and with overtime he's relatively well paid even as a first year apprentice. Of course he's laid off at the moment, but he'll have work again when construction is back on assuming the economy doesn't completely collapse. I'm not sure if Berkeley or Alameda County have similar programs - check with local community colleges.

It sounds like a CTE program (Career Technical Education) might have been a better fit than traditional college. (IMO our current culture that tells kids they MUST go to a four-year university or risk being a loser in life is doing them no good!) Peralta Colleges have an extensive program:

I know that Laney has a great program for various construction degrees and certificate programs, including Construction Management:

What about the military? It can be a good option for young people who aren’t sure about college and career.  And it will still be hiring in the midst of an economic depression, unlike most other sectors of the economy.  If he were to go to trade school or something like that, I think there’s a good chance he wouldn’t be able to find a foothold in the trade after finishing. I imagine the economy will take a few years to recover enough for relatively inexperienced people to be able to find work, more time than the likely duration of a vocational program. I’d just make sure he understands that the job market will be terrible, maybe worse than any in our lifetimes, and it only be harder for those without significant experience or educational credentials.  Serving in the military or pursuing higher education for the next few years don’t seem like bad options while the economy recovers.