If you ask Will Huss about the future of higher education, he’ll give a blunt assessment.
“Now this is strictly my opinion, but I think a lot of the traditional four-year colleges are going to go away in the next decade,” said Huss, who serves as president and CEO of the Trehel Corporation. “And I think that’s why technical schools are uniquely positioned right now.”
Though he admits he’s no sage when it comes to education — strictly speaking, Huss isn’t an educator at all — Trehel’s close partnership with Greenville Tech and the Greenville Tech Foundation since 2005 has provided him a window into how modern technical education has evolved in recent years.
That partnership is why Trehel will be one of the companies honored this fall at the Greenville Tech Foundation’s Workforce Development Salute, an annual event that recognizes community businesses, individuals and partners for their significant support of the workforce development and education efforts of Greenville Technical College.
Other honorees this year include Fluor Corporation and Truist (formerly SunTrust and BB&T Banks), with all proceeds from the event providing resources in support of the Greenville Tech Foundation’s mission to provide financial support for local education.
Huss said even before the coronavirus sowed doubts about the efficacy of traditional four-year degrees from a cost-benefit perspective, education in general was already seeing a major shift, with schools like Greenville Tech offering a more flexible and practical path forward.
He said the strength of technical education is already evident in the way his own company hires, focusing more on the skill set of the applicant as opposed to whether or not they hold a four-year degree.
“I think a lot of traditional higher education has become focused more on theory and research rather than developing a workforce,” Huss said. “So the reason I think Greenville Tech is uniquely positioned is that it’s a large college system, but it’s still very agile and nimble and can adapt quickly based on what the market needs.”
In the last 15 years, Trehel established the Trehel Corporation Endowed Scholarship in honor of Trehel founder Neal Workman, which gives preference to students in skilled trades programs. The company has also donated an airplane to the school’s Aircraft Maintenance Technology program, donated funds and served as contractor for renovations and upfit at the new Center of Culinary and Hospitality Innovation, and sponsored the Workforce Development Salute in years prior.Huss himself has personally lectured students on multiple occasions, offering his perspective on how they can best prepare themselves for their careers ahead.
“I tell them what I told my own children, which is to really think about where your passions are and the things that excite you in terms of a potential career, and then find the avenues that can allow that to happen,” Huss said.
Huss said he’s encouraging his own son, a rising senior, to take the technical school route as well.
“It’s a great way to access programs that are going to be really helpful in your life,” he said. “And I think he’ll see even more opportunity moving forward.”