FORT WORTH -- Tarrant County College held a 'Signing Day' ceremony on Thursday - but not for athletes. Instead, it was part of a national Career and Technical Education Signing Day, with students committing to their vocational programs of choice.
More than 40 colleges nationwide took part in an effort to showcase their students, who resisted the negative stereotypes of community colleges to get job training in high-demand trade fields like construction management and automotive services.
"They always used to say 'Two-year colleges are for losers,' or 'You didn't have a good GPA,'" says Nancy Martinez. "I was top 10% [in my high school class]. They expected me to be a doctor or lawyer, and I said, 'I'm going into automotive technician.' They were, like, 'Oh...at least you're doing something.' I was, like, 'Something? There is a high need of automotive technicians!'"
She's not kidding. According to the Georgetown Center the United States has 30 million jobs averaging an annual salary of $55,000 that don't require a four-year bachelor's degree. And in Texas, according to the latest data available from 2015, the National Skills Coalition reports 56 percent of the state's jobs were in the middle-skills category, which is trade-based jobs like web designers, electricians, registered nurses, and paralegals, but only 42 percent of workers were trained to do those jobs. On the flip side, there were more high- and low-skilled workers than there were opportunities for them.
"There's a lot of people my age who are retiring and there are no replacements," says Roberto Orosco, a 67-year-old military veteran who is coming out of retirement to become a construction manager simply because it always interested him. The last reported average annual salary for that position according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is more than $99,000.
Some community colleges including TCC also have partnerships with employers, giving students a head-start to secure jobs.
"We meed [employers'] needs in our curriculum" says TCC Board of Trustees member Gwen Morrison. "We work on their tools."
"That prepares you for all these things, and then you're ahead of the game" adds Orosco. "You're not wasting any time. You get right to it."
Plus, you don't graduate with a ton of student-loan debt. Sounds like a smart move to us!