Artwork by James Mitchell

"YOU CAN'T GET the jobs of tomorrow... until you get the skills... of today," the hard-ass narrator of the ITT Tech commercials gravely intoned sometime circa 1989. And that, my friends, is everything that anyone actually knows about ITT Tech! The end.

Okay, not the end—because unlike you slackers who are sitting around having ITT Tech commercials interrupt your Steve Wilkos, I drove out to Portland's ITT campus to see what, exactly, are the skills... of today. Turns out that in addition to being inside your TV, ITT Tech exists in the real world! (It's out in Cascade Station, by the airport, near the IKEA, right across the street from a Target.) Next to a parking lot filled with everything from battered pickups to Subaru Outbacks with "Reading Is Sexy" bumper stickers sits a sterile, generic building designed in the architectural style known as "Where They Work in Office Space." Little would you know that inside this single, unassuming building is an ENTIRE SCHOOL! And a ROBOT ARM! And FAKE BODIES!

The robot arm is there as part of ITT's electronics program (which is where enterprising students are learning, among other things, how to construct the Terminators that will one day destroy us all), while the fake bodies are there for the nursing program (in the Terminator Wars, we will need nurses to tend to our wounded soldiers). In addition to teaching electronics and nursing, the Portland campus—one of a whopping 140 ITT Techs nationwide—also offers associate's and bachelor's degrees in IT, plus degrees in drafting and design, business, and criminal justice. (Don't get too excited by that last one; it only sounds like an amazing class that would be taught by Professor Batman.)

Depending on enrollment, Portland's ITT serves anywhere from 600 to 1,000 students, all of whom are shelling out a fair amount to go there: Students can expect to pay somewhere in the ballpark of $50,000 for a two-year associate's degree, with much of that degree's appeal being that it can lead to future employment or promotions. (Like the University of Phoenix, DeVry University, Le Cordon Bleu, and the Art Institute of Portland, ITT is a for-profit school—a controversial model that the New York Times, in 2010, noted has come under harsh criticism and class action lawsuits for "aggressive, sometimes deceitful recruiting practices" that target low-income students. There's no shortage of disgruntled ITT graduates and dropouts online—and their concerns are worth looking into if you're considering attending, especially given how strongly ITT stresses future employment as a selling point. In related news, I went to a private, four-year college and I'm still paying off loans that I spent on a goddamn creative writing major, so hey, there's higher education as a whole for you.)

In simplest terms, ITT can best be described as a trade school—a place designed to teach people skills that will get them jobs. And realistically, modern, up-to-date trade schools are something we actually need more of: in their eye-opening, exhaustingly titled Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution Is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy, MIT geniuses Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee write that the digital revolution has left a lot of people behind—people who simply don't possess the skills that are required in a digitally driven workforce. Places like ITT Tech might not be the perfect answer to this massive problem, but a general focus on learning technology-specific job skills would certainly be a step in the right direction.

Or it could lead to the Terminator Wars.