Sebastian Jurczak took his first machine shop class during his freshman year at East Leyden High School in Franklin Park. It sparked an interest in manufacturing classes, and he expanded his skills with CAD courses and other electives.

The manufacturing and design trade “was something I really enjoyed,” said Jurczak, now 24 and working in the field as he pursues certifications and an associate’s degree, all while supporting himself and avoiding student loan debt.

High school administrators say more students are considering options outside of four-year degrees, which are financially out of reach for many. With some of the fastest-growing fields attainable without a university education, students are pursuing a variety of career routes, including technical training for skilled trades that sometimes begins in

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