AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — Trade schools offer a financial and time-commitment alternative to traditional universities but continue to be challenged by the stigma that says a trade school is for people who cannot make it in college. 

Juan David Aguilar from Leadville is learning his way around an engine. He said he eventually wants to be his own boss.

“Hopefully open up my own shop and work on cars, but it’s gonna take time for sure,” Aguilar said.

He is not alone, as enrollment is on the rise at Pickens Technical College. Over 1,000 students are currently attending.

“It’s an incredible opportunity because basically, we are career and technical education so our whole deal is we are getting people out into industry,” Andrew Vidockler, cosmetology occupations administrator at Pickens Technical College, said.

With ever-increasing college tuition and a not impressive six out of 10 college students even graduating, trade schools like Pickens Technical College have been an increasingly attractive alternative. 

“I think the pandemic changed some of that stuff, people are like, ‘Hey, want to work on my hands, I want to do something that is skills-based and I wanna follow my passion,’ right? So, if you wanna be a chef, this culinary arts program is a perfect program for you. You don’t need to go to a four-year university for that,” Vidockler said.

But the stigma of a technical college still prevails, although not quite as much these days.

“I think that’s a bit of an old perception. I think it’s definitely shifted. I mean our students are brilliant. They come here, they work incredibly hard,” Vidockler said.

And that may be the key to success, to actually go to work.