Thanks Cristin. Your post is definitely complementary. American society needs to start seeing the value of trade school education as a means to securing a decent paying job, a means to growing as a professional and as a complement to an academic education.
Cristin, I'm glad you bring attention and dignity to trade school training. You highlight how important it is to be passionate about your career pursuits, and it is clear that the young man you met was excited about a career in welding.
I also think students who pursue academic pursuits can also benefit from some trade school training. If you want to be a mechanical engineer, wouldn't it make sense to spend some time learning automotive work? An electrical engineer who spent time learning to be an electrician? A historian who studied to be a licensed tourist guide? An art historian who studied welding? And if students studied a trade, they can actually make real money to pay for an academic degree. I agree with Cowboy that these changes will take place through a shift in how society views and values trade school training.
Please see my article https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/higher-ed/research/can-high-school-vocational-skills-pay-for-an-academic-degree-the-brazilian-educational-model to see how this issue is addressed in Brazil.