Trade Schools and Apprenticeships Are Making a Comeback

Why some students are rethinking the conventional college path and the value of hands-on experience.

Radiology technician Kay Dean Kaplan. Photo by Benjamin C. Tankersley.

Which sectors are hot right now? According to Cooley, the labor market researcher at NOVA, construction and home repair occupations are expected to keep growing in this area as projects like Metro’s Silver Line and other large-scale urban redevelopment plans come to fruition, and as homeowners craving more luxury and more space continue to remodel or rebuild their homes. Health care-related jobs are proliferating, too, he says, especially as the population ages. And that’s another area where technology is proving transformative.

Kay Dean Kaplan, an X-ray technician at the Nirschl Orthopaedic Center in Arlington since 1986, is getting ready to retire. She became a registered radiology technologist after entering a two-year training program at St. Patrick’s Hospital in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and earning her certification. Before that, she had worked as a hospital volunteer. The environment felt comfortable and familiar. “Radiology was what I knew,” she says, and “my mother…wanted me to be able to support myself. She encouraged me to go to a technical school to get into a technical field.”

These days, Kaplan may take as many as 40 X-rays on a given day, depending on the number of doctors working and their caseloads. She is also charged with patient care, like dressing changes and suture removal. Bedside manner is as much a job requirement as knowing her way around a complex piece of digital equipment.

Her certification could have served as a jumping-off place, she says—new technologies have created a boom in the imaging field.

Indeed, imaging is one of many medical specialties that’s really growing, confirms Laura Van Syckle, a recruiter for Virginia Hospital Center. Physicians are “doing more and more testing and screening [and] there’s a limited supply of qualified people in those areas. You can’t imagine how hard it is to find them.”


Madelyn Rosenberg, a children’s book author, lives in Arlington with her family.

Categories: Education