National and state governments invest in growing field of technical education
“While almost every sector of higher education is seeing fewer students registering for classes, many trade school programs are booming,” according to an April 17 article in The Hechinger Report.
Enrollment in mechanic and repair trade programs went up 11.5 percent from spring 2021 to 2022, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.
Culinary employment went up by 12.7 percent and construction trade course enrollment went up by 19.3 percent.
In contrast, two-year college enrollment went down 7.8 percent, and public four-year college enrollment decreased by 3.4 percent, the Clearinghouse reported.
“Enrollment declines are worsening this spring,” according to the center. “Total postsecondary enrollment, which includes both undergraduate and graduate students, fell a further 4.1 percent or 685,000 students in spring 2022 compared to spring 2021.”
“Undergraduate enrollment accounted for most of the decline, dropping 4.7 percent this spring or over 662,000 students from spring 2021,” the center reported.
“This is only slightly less than last spring’s 4.9 percent loss. As a result, the undergraduate student body is now 9.4 percent or nearly 1.4 million students smaller than before the pandemic.”
Young people are gravitating to trade school jobs. These students are well matched to existing work opportunities. But thousands of high-paying blue-collar jobs that don’t require a college degree sit empty because too many people think college is necessary, according to another article published earlier this year by The Hechinger Report and as reported by The College Fix.
Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis announced last year that his administration will invest $5.8 million to expand trade schools through a grant to a school district, The Fix reported. The new grant is part of the nearly $75 million invested by the Sunshine State into trade schools in the past year, according to the governor’s office.
The trade school “has a proven track record of equipping students with skills for employment as demonstrated by 84% of students earning an industry recognized credential,” spokesperson Jennifer Kupiec told The Fix via email. It also has a “95% student completion rate…and [a] 84% job placement.”
Tennessee technical college network paves the way in offering bridge between training and work
The Tennessee College of Applied Technology, a network of 24 vocational and technical colleges across the state, offers training for 70 occupations, according to The Hechinger Report. They offer 16-month to two-year courses in subjects like diesel and automative, technology and welding. College President Nathan Garrett told the news outlet that many of the courses have waiting lists.
The college started offering night classes and it’s expanding its facilities to increase demand.
“The Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology serve as the premier suppliers of workforce development throughout the State of Tennessee,” according to one branch of the school’s “About the TCAT” page. It focuses on matching student training to jobs that are regionally available.
While overall community college enrollment in Tennessee dropped during the pandemic and hasn’t recovered, many TCAT programs continue to expand, according to The Hechinger Report.
Garrett told The Hechinger Report that students like the hands-on work and the philosophy of the institution: “You need to get your hands on the equipment, you need to start building stuff, breaking stuff and then learn how to fix that stuff.”
They also like the opportunity to get real-world experience and feedback from an employer before they graduate, Garrett said.
One student told the news outlet that his hands-on training in automotive technology inspires him the more he advances.
“I really enjoy just working on the body of the car and learning. Every new day, I just get more motivated,” TCAT Nashville student Robert Nivyayo said.
MORE: Appreciate blue-collar work and trade school, student says
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