Study: Trade School Offers Affordable Alternative to College; D-Mar General Contracting Advocates for Trade School Education Amid Rising Demand for Skilled Workers

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With college loan debts approaching $1.2 trillion and the construction and contracting industry facing a shortage of skilled workers, Doreen DiPolito of D-Mar General Contracting and Development advises students to consider trade school as an alternative to traditional college degrees.

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I’m a strong proponent of trade schools and the vocational and technical training they provide, which is why I feel it’s important for high schools to include trade electives in their curricula.

Recent reports show that college students are facing mounting levels of debt (1) while construction and contracting companies are struggling to hire skilled workers (2, 3); yet many high schools are eliminating trade classes to focus on college preparatory programs (4). Doreen DiPolito—owner and president of D-Mar General Contracting and Development in Tampa Bay, Florida—believes the current dynamic does a disservice to students by narrowing their career options. She advocates for expanded trade programs in high schools, asserting that trade schools offer a more affordable alternative to four-year degree programs while helping students prepare for high-paying, in-demand jobs.

Experian analysts revealed that student loans have become the second largest debt class behind mortgages, surpassing even credit cards. The company reports that 40 million Americans hold one or more student loans, averaging $29,000 per consumer and a record $1.2 trillion in total (1). In spite of this growing debt, high schools still continue to promote college-prep programs, with California, Texas, Florida, and other states shutting down shop class and other trade electives in favor of more rigorous academic subjects (4). Many schools justify their push toward a college track based on earning potential, citing data such as National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) figures that show workers aged 25-34 earn an average of $30,000 per year with a high school diploma, $35,700 with an associate’s degree or equivalent, and $46,900 with a bachelor’s degree (5).

However, DiPolito contends that construction and contracting jobs offer a promising career path and good earning potential for young workers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), while the median hourly salary for all occupations is $17.09, construction and extraction workers earn $19.90 per hour. Furthermore, construction and extraction jobs rank in the top half of the Bureau’s major occupational categories for both hourly and annual earnings, surpassing career fields such as healthcare support, office and administrative support, sales, production, and protective services. The BLS estimates that construction and extraction workers earn an annual mean wage of $46,600, with substantially higher salaries for roles that require more skill and experience: $58,430 for construction and building inspectors; $65,150 for first-line supervisors; and $94,590 for construction managers (6).

Not only do construction and contracting jobs offer attractive salaries, but they typically require a much smaller investment of time and money than a baccalaureate degree. A recent news story noted that a bachelor’s degree program costs an average of $127,000 and takes four years to complete while the average trade school degree costs $33,000 and can be completed in two years (7), allowing graduates to enter the workforce sooner and pay off student loans more quickly.

“I’m a strong proponent of trade schools and the vocational and technical training they provide, which is why I feel it’s important for high schools to include trade electives in their curricula,” said DiPolito. “Many students simply aren’t suited to the intense theoretical studies of a traditional bachelor’s program and an affordable trade school education can prepare them for an interesting, well-paying career in construction and contracting.”

As a Florida Certified General Contractor and hands-on business owner, DiPolito has earned acclaim for many high-profile residential development and commercial building projects throughout the state. Her portfolio includes national franchises such as Dunkin’ Brands, Circle K, Burger King, and Quiznos. She also recently led a Hess re-conversion that serves as the model for a major rebranding project under the new ownership of Marathon’s Speedway, which selected D-Mar as the company’s legacy contractor. D-Mar continues to expand its client base with a Florida charter schools and was recently awarded a contract with LSG Flight Chefs. DiPolito aims to expand opportunities women in construction, and spearheaded D-Mar’s certification as a Minority Business Enterprise and Women’s Business Enterprise.

To learn more about D-Mar General Contracting and Development and owner Doreen DiPolito, visit

About D-Mar General Contracting and Development:
Founded in 1972 in Clearwater, Florida, D-Mar has evolved from a family-run general contracting business into a full-service construction and remodeling firm renowned for its efficient and cost-effective services. Under the leadership of owner and president Doreen DiPolito, the company has expanded its offerings to include commercial development, construction management, large-scale interior build-outs, and site development. D-Mar has completed successful projects for such well-known franchise brands as Hess, Dunkin’ Brands, Burger King, Quiznos, and Circle K, and has attained certification as a Minority Business Enterprise and Women’s Business Enterprise from the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC); Women/Minority Business Enterprise (WMBE) certification from the City of Tampa; and Minority, Women and Service-Disabled Veteran Business Certification from the Florida Office of Supplier Diversity (OSD). In addition to her professional achievements as a state of Florida Certified General Contractor and business owner, DiPolito gives back to the community by serving on the Clearwater City Council and on the boards of local cultural, civic, and charitable organizations. For more information, visit

1. Experian. “Experian Analysis Finds Student Loans Increased by 84 Percent Since the Recession; 40 Million Consumers Now Have at Least One Student Loan”; September 9, 2014.

2. Clark, Anthony. “Booming Construction Faces Worker Shortage”; The Gainesville Sun; January 30, 2015.

3. Clough, Alexandra. “Got Workers for That? Skilled Construction Labor in Demand”; The Palm Beach Post; January 30, 2015.

4. Brown, Tara Tiger. “The Death of Shop Class and America’s Skilled Workforce”; Forbes; May 30, 2012.

5. Kena, Grace; Susan Aud; Frank Johnson; et al. The Condition of Education 2014; U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics; May 2014.

6. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. May 2014 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, United States; last modified March 25, 2015.

7. Hamm, Trent. “Why You Should Consider Trade School Instead of College”; The Simple Dollar; April 9, 2015.

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