In business, when the boss “manages by objective,” it means there can be many roads to accomplishing the goal. Employees are deemed “successful” whatever path they choose, as long as the goal is achieved. Fortunately, education is taking a page from the business playbook. As this year’s class of high school seniors considers the options for their next steps in life, there are many paths to explore to achieve that “life objective” of being happy, fulfilled, challenged and self-sustaining in society.

Phillip Potenziano, superintendent of the Brunswick School Department.

For some, that means a fall of filling out college applications online and then figuring out how to pay for that four-year journey. For others, this fall offers time to explore different paths leading to the same end. And there are plenty of options that take into account personal interests, career goals, skills, cost and the time it takes to be “on the job” and moving ahead in life.

Here are just a few of the paths our soon-to-be high school grads have to consider:

Community or online college

Community colleges are typically lower-cost options that offer the flexibility to try a few areas of study and engage in career exploration. Furthermore, an associate degree or two-year degree may be all that’s required for some entry-level positions. On the other hand, online colleges tend to need fewer elective courses, so your dollars can be earmarked for career or skill-specific classes.

Boot camps and free resources

In a world that seems to run on technology, there is always a niche for IT technicians and coders. There are more than 500 computer coding boot camps, according to Course Report, a website that tracks the industry. You can also find both free and paid self-paced resources for jobs in illustration and animation, coding, video production, design and user experience.

Apprenticeships, on-the-job training

As defined by the U.S. Department of Labor, apprentices work in their chosen field, learn on the job and study under a mentor, all while earning a paycheck. Similarly, some employers offer training, education and advancement opportunities that allow employees to learn the job from the ground up. Both are good alternatives in today’s economy. There are 1,126 apprentices and 191 active employers in the Maine Registered Apprenticeship Program here in Maine. For more information, check out or


Military service

The military offers a chance to learn a wide range of skills, travel to multiple locations and serve our country. It provides access to training for various jobs, such as engineering, aviation, human resources and more. Serving in the military also provides the opportunities to develop intangible skills that employers value, such as teamwork and leadership. And once your service commitment is complete, there is often funding for additional training and assistance in job placement as a civilian.


Got a business idea or a hobby that could be a career? Etsy and eBay are just two ways to start. It’s much easier to take risks and get started when you are young than when you’re older and have more significant financial obligations. Consider giving your great idea a shot before finalizing other more traditional educational options. We all know of some very famous entrepreneurs who don’t have a college degree: Steve Jobs, Rachel Ray, Daymond John, Coco Chanel and Russell Simmons, to name a few. Maybe you’re the next one? One tip: While a formal education isn’t required for entrepreneurs, some basic classes in business and marketing could help ensure success. Another option would be to connect with SCORE, which is a resource partner of the U. S. Small Business Administration. SCORE offers free and low-cost business education workshops on a wide range of topics, from planning and financing to website and social media marketing.

Trade and vocational school

For a while, learning a skilled trade had fallen out of favor because schools had inadvertently pushed the belief that a four-year degree was the best path for most students. Fortunately, this is changing, and learning a trade or entering a post-secondary technical, career or vocational school can be a great career path, especially if you like working with your hands. The world depends on carpenters, electricians, mechanics, plumbers, welding and metal workers, masonry pros and locksmiths as an integral part of keeping society moving ahead.

Helping your child understand their interests and abilities is essential, but when it comes down to it, I believe that as a parent, you have to first and foremost listen to your child. Of course, the choice your child makes might not be the one you would have made for them, but accepting your child’s decision, supporting them and watching them succeed will be rewarding. And, as those of us who are already well down our chosen career paths know, we will spend around half our lives working, so why not decide to do something that you enjoy?

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