Emphasis is often placed on the need for a bachelor’s degree to ensure a prosperous future. But for some graduating seniors, they will begin their careers almost immediately after walking the stage.
Take, for instance, Red Oak senior Corbin Tingle, who graduates in less than a month with a career already lined up.
With four years of welding classes, agriculture mechanics and the Career Technology Education program on his high school resume, Tingle will begin his welding career at Americase in Waxahachie.
“You think all these kids in here — half of them are going to walk across that stage and go to college and don’t have a guaranteed job afterward. Yet, I can graduate and go on vacation for a little but as soon as I get back, I’m working,” Tingle reconciled.
Robby Kinsala, the president and CEO of Americase, explained the company has hired several Red Oak and other Ellis County graduates from the Career Technical Education (CTE) programs.
“The trade skills, vocational skills, the expertise with certain types of work you have to learn for the job and students come with that experience and can weld as good as some of the employees we already have,” Kinsala explained.
When analyzing the employees with the high school CTE background, Kinsala thinks they all have “the willingness to continue to learn, to continue improvement, attitude is there in all of them."
Kinsala added, "They want to soak up every bit of knowledge and training that we can throw at them. They are not afraid to work. They have a drive and passion for quality and beating their own goals.”
COLLEGE IS NOT FOR EVERYONE
The CEO agreed that a four-year degree is not for every person, just like a job in the technical field isn’t either. From his perspective, the students with experience in the trade seem to be more programmatic, have a practical lifestyle and have zero desire to accumulate collegiate debt.
He added how those taking the technical path also have the opportunity to advance their skills with certifications and an associate’s degree.
“I highly believe in getting some boots on the ground and getting your hands dirty in a trade where you can provide for your family, not go into debt and start building a life,” Kinsala elaborated. “That is a different path than what’s prescribed by society, but it’s maybe a much cleaner path because you don’t have mountains of debt to get over.”
The CTE program at Red Oak High School works closely with Texas School Technical College (TSTC). The provost for the Red Oak campus, Marcus Balch, pointed out the market for technical careers is open, and the need for employment is vital.
“There’s a shortage of middle-skilled employees right now in the state of Texas, and that’s exactly what we do here is fill that need," Balch affirmed.
He mentioned how the placement rate out of TSTC is 90 percent. Their career service program works closely with employers in Ellis County and the entire state.
“We are contacted multiple times a week, if not daily, by companies looking for employees. And typically, companies are not looking for two or three or four, in some cases, looking for 30, 40, 50, 100 depending on the field and need," Balch explained. "From our standpoint, we certainly have more employers contacting us and more jobs out there than we can fill by far without question.”
Balch noted a study he came across, which explained for every one job that required master's or doctorate, there are two jobs that require a bachelor’s degree and then seven technical jobs that require a certificate or associates.
CAREER AND TECHNOLOGY
Jake Mullican is one of the FFA advisors at Red Oak High School and works with the welding classes. He was Tingle's mentor and worked closely with him on shop projects.
He stressed how students have the opportunity to enter the workforce straight out of high school instead of having to wait four years to start.
Through CTE, “I think the biggest thing that benefits them is the opportunity they have to develop real-world industry skills that are current," Mullican emphasized. "We take those skills, deliver them to the students to make sure whenever they leave here that they are going to have the appropriate set of skills to be successful at that next level.”
He also noted students with a CTE background who are pursuing higher education are likely to get a better paying job in their field during college rather than waiting tables. That work experience in their field accumulated during college makes them more hirable.
Mullican strives to equip his students with the knowledge and experience to enter the workforce, make an impact at work and continue to be successful in their field. For Tingle, he utilized the foundational agriculture courses to find that passion. He advanced his work by creating projects to show in FFA and then entered the dual credit welding program, which granted him 15 college hours at TSTC.
When asked the estimated number of hours he had in the shop, he laughed out loud. Tingle could not put a number on it but assured it was well over a thousand with afterschool projects and experimenting on the weekends.
Without these programs at Red Oak High School, Tingle is not sure what path he would be on. When he heard the words, “you’re hired,” he was overjoyed at the fact that his four years paid off.
“The CTE program helped me put it all together — my life together,” Tingle added.
Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450