I am glad you brought up trade schools. One of the most common trade classes that is taught in the US, is automotive technology. This is my area of expertise. This trade, like many others, has changed over the years. In my opinion, it should not be taught in high school, it should be taught afterwards. And the niche is currently filled by private automotive tech schools, and is not cheap. Minimum course requirements are two years of full-time training for entry level knowledge, with ongoing training required yearly. Most ongoing training is provided by the vehicle manufacturers, and is brand specific. A Toyota technician often cannot work on a Land Rover without additional specialized training. Today, top automotive technicians can earn over $100,000 per year... if they are not in a union shop. Most technicians are paid on production, not hourly. In northern California, many shops are union and the average pay is far below those in southern California. This not meant to be an indictment against unions, but to let everyone know how much money can be made.
A good automotive technician must understand chemistry, electronic theory, hydraulics, and a myriad of other subjects. They must be able to read well, and daily must access technical service bulletins, wiring diagrams, diagnostic trees, and more. They must be able to use PCs, access technical websites, etc. It is not unusual to access shared hard drives for daily communication of vehicle status, needed work and more. Many inspection forms are interactive and reside on web-servers and are tied directly to the local computer system. They use specialized handheld computers to interface with cars and trucks. Some cars have up to 30 computers on-board. Advanced electronics in cars make the Apollo spacecraft look like tinker toys. Computers control brakes, engine management systems, additional emission controls, steering, transmissions, differentials, accessories like power windows, dash displays, heated seats, and it goes on and on. We are using infra-red technology as a kind of radar. They must be able to trouble shoot bluethooth technology and diagnose why your cell phone or iPod is not communicating with the vehicle. They need to diagnose why customer remote controls gadgets are not communicating with the vehicle. Some cars no longer have keys. Luxury vehicles use computers control individual preferences for each seat, to include separate heating and air conditioning preferences for each passenger. On board navigation and audio systems have hard disk drives in them. We are now dealing with audio visual equipment in vehicles and even remote back-up cameras. Technicians may also use Unix-based Dealership Management Systems for accounting, payroll, and billing information daily. They must be adept at the metric and English measurement systems, and have the ability to use very accurate measurement tools down to 1/1000th of an inch or its metric equivalent. Many cars now have electronic sensors in the wheels that use wireless technology to send pressure information to a computer. Technicians must be able to write well. On most repairs they must access a computer and document the complaint, cause and correction. If they cannot do this, the manufacturer will not pay the dealership for warranty repairs. In an audit, the warranty repair 'story' must communicate the problem, steps taken to diagnose it, and detail the repairs. Manufacturers will reject claims that are not well written. Technicians must be fluent in English.
A properly equipped training center costs over $1 million dollars, and class sizes often must be kept at 8-12 students. There are not enough qualified instructors in the industry to fill every classroom in every school.
The bottom line is that if a kid wants to be an automotive technician, the educational requirements are not much different than those for a kid who plans on going to college. And the kid who wants to be a master automotive technician will need to spend $20,000 - $50,000 on his personal tools and equipment. Fact is that if most kids do not have a top notch education, they will be left behind and the traditional trades will not be an option either.