Career Tech Becomes Increasingly Important as Funding Shrinks

At a time when college graduates are struggling to find jobs, employers in vocational fields are struggling to find trained workers.

"Good machinists are in their mid- to late 50s," said Kevin Boyens of Boyens Machining Inc. in Marion. "This group is nearing retirement. There aren’t enough trained individuals to take their place."

Boyens teaches the metal fabrication career academy at the Jones Regional Education Center. "As a business owner, I know what I need them to know," he said. "I know what they’re going to need."

Relevance is a key factor of career technical education, or CTE. Instructors pride themselves on providing real life training for students, with the goal of helping them find their future, whether it’s a technical program or a university.

Increasingly, a college degree may not be a must. The 2010-11 edition of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook indicates that in the next six years, 14 of the occupations that will experience the largest numerical growth are fulfilled by non-college types.

And pay scales are competitive. For example, the average starting salary for an engineer with a bachelor of science degree is $54,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average starting salary for an engineer technician, with an associate degree in applied science, is $47,000.

“Seventeen million of the country’s workforce are in jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree — yet they have them,” said Kristy Black, director of the Jones Regional Education Center. “A student doesn’t always have to have a four-year degree to do what they love and make a good living. We try to stress here that there are multiple pathways; don’t ever let a door close.”

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