Hmmm. I've said before that going into certain trades is like earning an associate's degree, at the very least. In some cases, people do earn a one-year certificate or associate's degree, and then they start working as an apprentice. You can get hired on with a union and get paid a living wage right away, but the unions in my area work in conjunction with the community colleges. Texas has standardized the training for electricians, plumbers, and HVAC-R technicians. To become a journeyman electrician or plumber, you need 8,000 hours of experience. Still, you don't need four years of post-secondary education, it's free to get your initial training through a union, and it's cheap to get your training from a community or public technical college. Where people usually screw up is paying tens of thousands of dollars to a for-profit trade school. SCI Texas charges $20,000 for its HVAC program.