By Vince Gerasole

(CBS) — There is a new face among the programmers and developers at Chicago’s Pivotal Labs.

Avontay Coleman is a hard working high school junior who’s been paired with product manager Daniel Witenberg. Witenberg is a mentor helping him see that these jobs — which can pay as much as $100,000 a year — require technical training but not necessarily a college degree.

“A lot of people my age aren’t into internships and apprenticeships — they think about four-year colleges,”Avontay says.

Adds Witenberg: “If that’s not the right path I don’t think it should be forced on someone. It could lead to frustration.”

Heckey Powell is the successful Evanston restaurateur who brought the two together. He’s helped create a new initiative called the Evanston Work Ethic program, or WE.  It matches high school students with mentors in the trades, from food service to high-tech, to help them see the sometimes overlooked possibilities.

“It’s okay to have a trade,” Powell says.

By 2020 in the evolving economy, it’s estimated only 35 percent of emerging jobs will require a four-year degree. High schools, says Powell, often overlook presenting alternatives to students who could flourish in the trades.

“They aren’t interested in college, but they are kind of pushed that way,” Powell says.

College could still be an alternative for Avontay, but for now he’s exploring all the possibilities.

Vince Gerasole