College or Apprenticeship?


Are you training? Feta. Randy Collins Construction Brothers

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SHOW NOTES


Today, we take a day to reflect on the importance of knowing the pros and cons of college and apprenticeships. Ken Rusk really inspired us to give our personal experiences with these paths and what worked for us! We look at the cost of college and where that can lead. Our goal isn’t to say one is better than the other but to remind the future that they have more than one choice.

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TRANSCRIPTION


Tyler: (00:20)

Well, this week college or apprenticeship? This is an interesting question. Isn't it though. And you know, it's been a topic of conversation here around the office ever since we did our interview with Ken Rusk. And so as a result, we were like, Hey, we have some thoughts on this because you know, we've had experience there.


Eddie:

Yeah. kind of took a little bit of a twisting road myself to get where I'm at and.


Tyler:

We'll get into that. We'll get into that. So, you know, I've got Ken's book here in front of us, so I've got some stats from that that we can pull from and actually have some real numbers that have been researched versus us just pulling them out of our ear. And yeah. So we'll dive into that here in a second. So if you hear some rustling around that's what's going on there, I'm just flipping through the book, but Eddie, how about you kick us off? Let's talk about your story, how you became a steel detailer. How long do you have, how about you have 30 seconds?


Eddie:

Oh, John, I became a steel detailer via the normal route. I fell into this. We joke that steel detailing is not something you really set out to do. It's not something that a lot of people know about. It's kind of an obscure, but an integral part of construction. And so when dad started this company I'm a senior in college, I had never heard, I mean, I knew about construction knew about general contractor, never heard of steel detailing, 3D modeling was like brand new. And so all of this, every bit of this concept and the business that dad was starting was different than anything I would've gone to school for. Even if I had gone to school for that on purpose, it didn't really exist.


Tyler:

Yeah. Now, what did you go to school for?


Eddie:

I went to school for history. And really, I mean, if we're honest baseball, I took a, I took a twisting turning road through college. I graduated in history, but [got an] associates in business, spent a little time as a computer science major. Believe it or not.


Tyler:

I actually didn't know that. Yeah, that's hilarious.


Eddie:

Well, then I came out of all that. I just, you know, I spent five years in college and got a lot of credits. So the bottom line was, I wanted to play some ball and I was able to do that and have a lot of fun. By the time I'm getting out of college, I really was intrigued by the whole idea of full-time ministry. And so I actually got out of school zeroed out, didn't have a lot of debt like we'll talk about in a minute, I'm fortunate for that, but I didn't have anything. I'm not [lying], I was had like nothing. Christy was buying my groceries just so I could eat at that point.


And so I did what I knew. I went back out to the construction field and I got a job tying rebar. And I'm so very blessed by one of my friend's dads. Let me back out in the field, tied some rebar for about as long as I could stand it, then took a cleaner job, remodeling bathrooms and crawling under houses for awhile. And then after a while of being in seminary and, you know, doing the remodeling thing, I finally got to a point where I was like, "you know, I kind of need to make a move here that's gonna allow me to have some upward mobility and is going to allow me to work with this schedule of doing grad school."


And so dad and I talked and he was like, "Hey, you know what? You might be able to do this thing." And we took off. So, didn't really plan on falling into it and didn't really plan on staying in it. But as things changed and I decided, "Hey, I'd rather volunteer in ministry than be in it full-Time" and I'd rather put my hands to something and really use this whole thing that I liked doing and building. It started to stick, you know, and during that time, dad, it was CNI, you know? And so it was for the first year it was he and I in the basement, you know, it sounds like an old Alan Jackson song when you say, I mean, it's like, it's true.


Tyler:

It was a dark dingy, light bulb.


Eddie:

...hanging over our head and, you know, we'd get the 19 inch CRT screen. And like, I mean, it was not what we work on now at all. We sat back to back where I could spin around and drive him nuts with questions all day long every day, and sometimes he'd even entertain them and give me answers. But he did a great job. We'd walk, we'd go and hike at lunch. And usually, the hike was, let's talk like we're talking through jobs, we're talking through the day, we're talking through like whatever life. And just dad pouring into me very purposefully.


So I reaped the benefit of that. We started building the company and decided to grow the company. We hired a few employees and kind of, you know, the rest is kinda in the books, but that's really kind of where the beginning of my story started. So yes, college, but in the end, ultimately apprenticeship.


Tyler: (05:59)

Well, so my story is a little bit different than that because I didn't go to college and my route was strictly apprenticeship. It's really been interesting because, you know, I got out of high school, I went and I worked at Sprint, and then I worked at Verizon there for a while and kinda gotten the technical end of things. And that wasn't really a job with a ton of upward mobility or anything. But then ultimately at the end of the day, I came back and did the same thing. Fell into the day job here, working with you and dad and, you know, nine years have passed.


And day in, day out, I've been learning more about steel detailing. I've been learning more about business. I've been learning about, you know, leading people, which is challenging, but it's not learning from a book, it's learning from doing. And you can learn a lot from a book. I don't want to say that you can't like, I don't want to knock that, but and I did and I have, but at the end of the day it's being boots on the ground learning by doing and a lot of failing along the way, a lot of bumping my head and learning how this whole thing works. And you know, it's at the end of the day though, I look around and I feel like I've been extremely blessed in that ability to just grow in my own time and figure out the things that I actually like to do.


This is something that I kind of want to go back to, which is most of the time when you get out of high school, you have no idea what you want to do. There are some of us that can approach it with some strategy. I wasn't one of those people though, I was one of those that was a seeker. I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do and fell into detailing similar to you. But, at the end of the day, I was like, "ah, gosh, I don't know. I don't want to be a detailer my whole life." You know, that's just not what I want to do. So there's a lot of that itch to go out and try something new and stuff.


But through that, I was able to learn other things like how to market, how to do graphic design, how to shoot video, how to edit photos and all of these other things that piqued my interest. I had that freedom to go and explore. And we're in a really cool time because the internet offers so much to us. There's so much out there that can be learned. Let's not forget that. Like you can learn cabinet making online now. Like there's a great program that I saw the other day on Instagram. And they're like teaching how to be a cabinet maker. Now you still need to put your hands to it. You still need to learn and take the time to do the thing, but Hey, the resources are there for learning. It's just up to you to really take them and run with them.


Eddie:

Right. Yeah. The ability to tinker and get your hands in and learn as you go is huge. I remember when you started getting asked about by my buddy, Eric, he's like, "how's it going? You know, how's it going with Tyler?" And I remember specifically telling him "Tyler's a long-term investment." You're like 18 years old, 19 years old. And I mean, you really were just trying to figure out which end is up. And so...


Tyler:

Definitely, I mean, still am, honestly,


Eddie:

We all are. It's a process I'm hoping to grow today, tomorrow, and the next day, but there are periods of life that, I mean, when you're 18/19 years old and you're just entering the workforce, how much experience can you really have? How much can you really know because you're being exposed to everything? And it feels like you're drinking through a fire hose.


I mean, I don't know if you had this. I feel like we related on this, but I remember when I started even remodeling, when I started, I'd go home and dream about soldering a pipe together or putting a faucet together because it was inundating my mind. When I started this job, I'd go home and I'd kind of like, I'd have a dream about the Tekla models I was putting together the connection. Cause it was inundating my mind. And that was, you know, maybe that's the way my brain works, but it was, I never had gotten there in college. I had never had so much knowledge poured into me that my brain was screaming.


And I feel like that was the effect it was having in that was a next-level education. And again, I'm not downplaying what happened in college. I mean, I wanted to be a baseball coach. That's what I want to do. I wanted to teach. Which is funny because this is what we are trying to do here. You know, it's not like your time in photography was wasted or my time learning how to teach was wasted. Like all of your talents and all of the things you do in life can play into what you're doing today and how you use that. And I mean, we've got these unique talent mixes, but getting that training for something that was going to pay was essential to me as, being able to be a grownup.


And so I remember as you were breaking in thinking, "man, this is a long-term investment," but it's been cool to watch you grow, man. Just watching you go from that 19 year old, nine years ago to where you are now and then see how that path just really, I don't know started kind of an exponential path of growth at some point. We saw that curve kind of sit there on a linear growth for a while. Then I feel like there was a point in time, really for both of us where it just clicked.


Tyler:

I think it was around year six.


Eddie:

And when it clicked, it was like, "boom, I'm in we're taking off now."


Tyler:

It took time y'all. It took time. It wasn't something that I came in and two months later it was like, "Oh yeah. I've got the whole world figured out," that's not what apprenticeship is and that's not what college is. You're not going to have everything figured out when you're coming out of college. The only difference is that you're paying them to figure it out


Eddie:

Well, and we're running the risk of making it sound like we're bragging about who we are and what we can do. Don't want it to become that. That's not the point. It's that light bulb moment where it's, you're going from getting things to all of the sudden the big picture just came into focus. Right? Like you get now, you're really getting that whole thing. That's when I feel like for dad and I, we really felt like, all right, now we've got a business partner in this thing, we got somebody that's looking to be an impact player. Right.


Tyler:

Right. And you know, now we're at this point where I'm starting to lead the team and I'm starting to invest in other people around me as much as I can. And the younger guys that are here in the office, I'm teaching them how to do things too. And it's funny because those younger guys they're currently in college. And you could see the level from them kind of being like, "Oh wow. You know, I can do this in this model or we can do this with the model." And it's like, you can see that growth happening in them. And it's engaging them in a different way than college.


Like they'll come in and they'll talk about their classes and all this other stuff. And they kind of do an eye roll almost like, "yeah. Okay. I gotta do this. I gotta do that." What's really funny is our intern Garrett, who's the first interview on the construction brothers, he will come in and he'll talk about his professors telling him how to manage. He'll be like, "no, that's not the way it works."


He gets a little bit pompous about it, which is hilarious because we've given him the opportunity to lead a team here in the office. The part-timers go to him and talk to him and anytime they do good and they get a raise, he gets to, give them a raise and talk about management training. And so he, it's funny to see him go like, "that's not the way that works. I'm sorry like that book is kind of off here. Like you're not taking into account these other factors." There's something that is said or something that can be said for somebody sitting in the seat and figuring it out the hard way. You can't pay for knowledge. It takes time.


Eddie:

You can't, you can pay for the information. It's the difference between a practitioner and a theoretician.


Tyler:

Fair. Yeah.


Eddie: (14:47)

And, what we're after in apprenticeship is becoming practitioners. Not just theoreticians. I mean, so that's us, that's probably more than anybody ever wanted or needed to know on us, but the point being we took different paths getting here and the joke, like dad will be like, "yeah, you know, my oldest, he can teach ya history while he details steel for ya. You know, our middle brother, he went to school for music. He can sing your opera while he details steel for you." You know, it's like...


Tyler:

And I can play the violin.


Eddie:

And Tyler can play the violin while he details steel for you and fix your phone. You know, here we all are really proud of the fact that we have become on some level people in the trades and working with steel fabricators, but away from us. I want to hear some of these statistics that you’ve gotten out of the book and talk about that a little bit.


Tyler: (15:50)

So we're going to dive back into Ken Rusk's book here a little bit and pull out some of these different statistics and try to talk about some of this stuff. And, the book may not be exactly current with what's going on today so keep that in mind. But hey, these are pretty close and I think we can roll with them.


So currently there is $1.5 trillion owed by nearly 45 million people for student loans in the USA. 7% of borrowers representing a whopping 2.5 million had at least a hundred thousand dollars in student loans. And then none of the numbers include credit card debt or other loans taken out for education. So if you go out to eat with your friends, you put it on a credit card that stacks up, you don't have the money to pay it. So on and so forth, which I know for a fact happens. Quite a few friends have had to pay large sums of money on their credit cards because they just put it on there because that's all they can do, they're not working.

Eddie:

Yeah. I'm kind of going negative during this period. It'll come back later.


Tyler:

It'll come back later. Yeah. But the question is, does it?


Eddie:

Will it come back later so if I get one of these vanilla degrees, how is that going to make me more viable in the marketplace than a certification perhaps?


Tyler:

Yeah, no. We saw that with our uncle John. He went out and got a bunch of certifications in technology and hacking.


Eddie:

Information security.


Tyler:

But this is one, again, one of those specialty sorts of things that you can find your way to if your eyes are wide open. Like we talk about being out in the field and, you don't need to be out in the field if you don't have a degree like that. That's not what we're saying. You can find a desk job if you don't have a degree, I have a desk job. I'm a builder. I'm a virtual builder. At my desk. I coordinate with the people in the field. And that's what we do. For John you know, he's sitting at his desk doing his thing and hacking the world's banks and stuff like that, because he knows how.


Eddie:

You know it's interesting Ken, Ken Rusk from Blue Collar Cash book, he's presenting a case for an opportunity here. There's an opportunity in the trades. John was a great example of like he got into information security before it was cool. I mean, we're talking 20 years ago when people weren't just flocking into that and don't get me wrong, it's a good place to be and everything. But he was in there at a time where there wasn't necessarily a path through school that just made you a certified ethical hacker. That was just a different route. Ken's doing the same thing. He's saying there's opportunity here in the trades because we don't have enough trades people.


Tyler:

It's the contrarian investment model. Right. So it was the thing that Warren Buffet talks about. But you know, so if a ton of people are coming out of the trades, there's obviously going to be a demand issue there. So if you go there, then you'll be able to make a premium by being there.


Eddie: (19:38)

Right. And that's being demonstrated in major markets. That is a concern of upscale builders. I mean the larger industrial owners that are building billion-dollar projects are very interested in forecasting the labor market, that's kind of in a halo around those projects. Can I even get the people to perform on the project? What am I going to have to pay them? What will that do to the neighboring markets when it comes to just the other things that are being built? What kind of impact is this going to have?


We're having to take into account the fact that we are short on labor. We are short on tradespeople. And so Ken is saying, yeah, from the standpoint of being contrarian, this makes total sense to come over and take a look at the trades, take a look at an apprenticeship. You don't have to go into six figures worth of college debt. And the call is just, we're not mad at college, but stop and think, what are you going to use it for? Do you need it? And is there another path because in many ways that is the path we're presented with. That's the one right. We're presented with this is what you do if you're successful. If you're a really good student and you make really good grades, this is the path you go to make it.


Tyler:

As people that hire. Do we look at high school grades? Do we look at college? Grades, GPA, anything like that? What do we look at?


Eddie:

Experience how you are in your interview? What kind of person are you? Do you look me in the eye? Do you shake my hand? Do you do what you say? Can I teach you?


Tyler:

What are the three things that we hire based on?


Eddie:

Integrity, intelligence, and aptitude. In that order, if you don't have integrity, you don't get an opportunity to show your intelligence or your aptitude, but you need all three.


Tyler:

And I think that those we can fall back to, and we can say, work on those things more than anything because even down to somebody who's a coder for Google. Let's say, if I'm hiring there, I'm looking for someone that can do the job. I'm not looking for somebody with a bunch of letters and all these other things behind their name necessarily because I'm looking for the best person for that job. So if you become a specialist, if you become somebody who knows Ruby on rails, better than anybody else in the world, you're going to be in demand. You are going to be in demand. If you know electrical better than anybody else, you are going to be in demand. If you know how to drive a modeling software, better than anybody else, you will be in demand and something that I would just urge people to do, especially before they hop into college, maybe work a couple of years.


You know, I worked a couple of years and I was going through this whole, should I go to college? Because I felt this shame. I felt like, I'm not going to be useful if I don't go to college, I'm not going to be able to... if something happens with AVSI, if something happens with our business, I won't be able to make it because people are gonna look at me and they're going to go, "well, he doesn't have a college degree." So, and then after a while, I started going, I bring value in other ways. And I may not even want to work with other people at that point. Like, as in I may not want to go get a job at XYZ contractor doing this or that or the other where they're looking for the degree in my resume, maybe I can start my own thing.


Eddie:

Yeah. That's more of an entrepreneurial mindset.


Tyler:

And so, that's the other thing that kinda came into this and not everybody is going to be this way, but for me, I started looking at it like "I'm interested in all these things because I love entrepreneurship. I love finding new ways to do things. I like figuring out how to help people figuring out their pain points, coming up with solutions for those pain points." But that wasn't something that I got in the first four years of me working. That was something that took me seven, eight years to start to really comprehend that's what we're looking for.


Eddie:

Sure but let's look at the timeline with you and your peers. It took me five years to get through school. It took me another year and a half to kind of get my head screwed on straight and figure out what I wanted to do with myself. And when I say, get my head screwed on straight I mean, just kind of figure it out. You know what I mean? Like we all go through this process of what should I do with myself? What am I meant to do? And then we go back over that too. I don't know how many people in their mid-thirties have come back and said, "is this what I wanted to be when I grew up?" It just is a thing we ask ourselves and I don't think anybody can just escape it. Some people are more sure of themselves than others, but when it comes down to it, there are timelines. When you look at it, I'm six and a half years in by the time I'm really engaging. And so when we look at where you were six and a half years in, six and a half years after 18/19 years old graduation of high school and where I am six and a half years later,


Tyler:

I've already started on my career path.


Eddie:

You're on your career path and you have a skill, you have a trade. Even if you were to abandon that trade, you've now got a fallback.


Tyler:

I'm teaching the college student at that point, which is what happened. You know, we had a guy that came to work with us, a really intelligent, really smart guy. But at the same time, whether I was a family member or not, I would have still been the one that was training him and getting him up to speed on how to do his job because of tenure. I have the tenure. I've put in the time. I've earned the respect of the people that are around me, not just of the family members, but of the other people that are around me for what I can do and tack line and as a detailer.


Eddie:

Yep. Well, and okay, so apprenticeship and mentorship are kind of the same thing to me. I mean, apprenticeship is like mentorship with the purpose of building into this specific realm. And I love mentorship. It's something that's very near and dear to me, I want to be practicing mentorship in many realms. One of the reasons I wanted to do ministry to be able to see what happens when... I got poured into, and now I get to pour into somebody else and then watch you catch fire and pour into others. It's like, man, that's gratifying. And just this really cool thing.


Now we've also around the office seen, symbiotic mentorship work out pretty well. Where we take a young person and an older person that are both new and put them together and let them learn together. One, having prowess at maybe picking up the softwares and things like that quickly, the other, having life skills and experience and letting them come together and help each other out. The point being, you started kind of cold and you had the experiences and the life that you had, but in the mentorship, you strengthened me in that there were things that you had exposure to, that you liked, that you had an interest in that you bring to the table and be like, "what about this?" That's why we're sitting here right now, doing what we're doing.


Tyler:

Yeah. That's why the podcast is here. Yes.


Eddie:

Yeah. You gave air to an idea and made it a thing. And so those strengths have played in. And so don't think that this is a single direction interaction when you're apprenticing. If you're taking the time to invest in somebody, if they buy it and they really get in and they get on the bus, they're investing back and you get that youthful fire and those wide eyes of like, "Oh man, what we do is cool." You get that encouragement, but you also get what they know and you get to walk alongside them as they ask questions and strengthen you and what you haven't really looked at in a minute. And so there's a lot to be gained from coming at it this way. And I just, I'm a firm believer that this is ultimately what will happen when you start a career, no matter what.


Tyler:

Yeah. College or not, college or not, you're coming out and you're going into an apprenticeship. It just is a matter of when. It's a matter of when. And you know, there are definitely beneficial things that can be learned from college. I'm not going to argue with that at all. I have a lot of friends that came out that are very beneficial to society and other realms as teachers, as doctors it's cool to see them go out and do those things.


Eddie:

On that point, you know, I mean Georgia college, which is right up the road from us here has a couple of programs that are pretty well thought of. One is teaching and one is nursing. And it's interesting to me that both of those programs, that the innovation of those programs is that they get the students in the classroom. They send them out a ton to go and teach. So there's an apprenticeship air to the top-notch college program. That's right up the road. It is good at what it does. And again, for that path, that's a known path where college helps and college is necessary. So good, but even in that, they're demonstrating the power of apprenticeship. And even in that, when you get into that first year of school, there's a reckoning, you got a lot to learn.


Tyler:

Yeah. You do. Talking more about the financial aspects of this too, from those decisions. And we talked about student loans and all that stuff. I don't know if we really tied a bow on that, but let's talk about how much we're spending over time. So to take this course of going through college versus going through an apprenticeship, in some cases, you're going to come out the other end of college, having spent a hundred grand, 150 grand, depending on where you go. I mean, you can spend 50 grand depending on where you go if you're going to an in-state school or something like that, but it's not cheap to do this, right. It's not a cheap stopping point for you. It's not a cheap place to stop off and say, you know, "I'm just going to sit here a minute and figure out what I want to do." That's ludicrous. That is ludicrous to think that you're just going to sit here and collect more debt and go further into the hole.


Like, so what we're advocating for is that if you've already gone through college, fine, whatever, I don't even know if we're speaking to you. I feel like we're speaking to the parents in the room who are guiding the next generation. Encourage your kids to think about what they want to do. And if they don't know, then maybe back them off of college, maybe say, "Hey, just wait a minute. How about you come work over here?"


Try to help them find a career path or find a place where they can fit in and learn. If you can find an electrician that needs an apprentice, have them go there. And if they get interested in architecture while they're going through. Cool, they know their path, they know what they want to do, but don't just at 18 send them off to go to college and start collecting debt. You're sending them further into the hole. And they're just going to be trying to climb out of that thing.


I see friends now that are still trying to climb out of it. We've taught a financial class, my wife and I, and we're in this class of about five, six couples. And we do a count-up at the beginning of it. And it's anonymous. Nobody really knows who has what, but, we look around the room and a lot of these people are college-educated and kind of looking like they've really got some success and all that. And what they ask you to do is go around the table, write down how much debt you have besides your house. So not including your house, how much debt do you have? You want to take a stab at how much we had in that class.


Eddie:

I remember In our class, but what'd you get?


Tyler:

So in the class that we taught, we had close to $200,000 worth of debt besides the house. Like just like not even including the house. And then we also had an account of liquid cash that we had floating around. It was like 30 grand. I'm like, "huh, what, where's that at?"


Eddie:

That's all of the savings of all of the families?


Tyler:

No, I'm saying this and I don't want it to sound like I'm tooting my own horn so I just really want to preface this. We contributed a lot of that l