The cost of higher education has increased exponentially in recent decades. Since the 1999-2000 academic year, the net price of tuition, fees, and room and board at a public, four-year college has increased by 68%.

Student loan debt has soared along with these rising expenses, hitting millennials and Generation Z particularly hard. More than 44 million Americans have outstanding student loan debt totaling more than $1.6 trillion.

Even though student loan debt has become the new normal, a four-year college degree doesn’t necessarily guarantee a career after graduation. Apprenticeships, like those offered in the ICATT Apprenticeship Program, provide an attractive alternative for students who want to learn in-demand skills and graduate debt-free. ICATT apprentices receive hands-on training at one of the ICATT Network Companies, while earning a debt-free associate degree. And most companies offer a two-year employment guarantee after completing the program.

How has the ICATT Apprenticeship Program made a difference in the lives of apprentices and their families? Read what a few have to say:

Marc Cassidy, father of recent ICATT graduate, Charlie Cassidy:

“Charlie has eight brothers and sisters, and he’s one of five who has gotten through school or is still in school. There’s no way we could have paid for university for all of the kids. When he mentioned this program, I told him, ‘You would be a fool if you didn’t take advantage of this.’ Student loan debt is crippling.

When he graduated, he was very happy with himself. He has no student debt and he can earn a living. He knows he made the right decision. He learned something valuable, and he had money coming in, not out, while he was doing it. To do that without borrowing money or burdening your parents, it’s a no-brainer.”

ICATT graduate, Izidorius Laurinaitis:

“The ICATT Program was incredibly valuable for me. Right out of college, I received a job offer in FELSOMAT’s service department, which allows me to travel all over the US, Mexico, Canada, and Germany.

I’m on the road 90-95% of the time, and I live with my parents when I’m not traveling, so I’m able to save everything I earn. I’m saving for something big in the future. I want to be financially mature and secure.”

ICATT graduate, Andrew Splett:  

“I’m an application and service engineer. I travel a lot during the summer and a little less the rest of the year (about 50% of the time). I save a lot of money since I don’t need to pay off student debt. I have been saving up to buy a house or a condo. I’m always telling others about the benefits of the ICATT program. Most young adults right out of high school don’t consider apprenticeships since they follow the beaten path to four-year degrees, even though ICATT offers more financial stability.”

Learn more about how to apply for the ICATT Apprenticeship Program.