Here’s a flash: Not everyone needs a four-year college degree to find a good job and launch a successful career.
The reality is that there are plenty of occupations that offer great pay but don’t require bachelor’s degrees (or above) and that are, in many cases, desperately in need of qualified applicants.
These jobs range from welder to plumber to electrician to automotive technician and more — and these are careers in which people with the proper training can start out making a livable wage.
Despite what some people might preach to the contrary, there’s no shame in working with one’s hands, particularly if it’s something one might have a knack for and actually enjoy doing.
It’s with this idea in mind that we praise the internship program at the Washington County Career and Technical Center, which last week awarded paid internships to four students who participated in the school’s first Internship Signing Day ceremony.
According to a story in the Washington County News, these internships are designed to help students who aren’t college-bound prepare for life after high school.
During the ceremony, the four students signed contracts formalizing their commitment to work as interns for businesses and industries that have agreed to participate.
Among the four was Andrew Sullivan, a senior in the school’s auto-servicing program, who will serve his internship at Worldwide Equipment in Abingdon.
“It’s not unusual for us to have internships outside the school system, but it is unusual to have this many students this early in the school year who are involved in internships,” said Brian Johnson, the career and technical center’s principal. “These students were chosen based on their commitment and skill levels.”
Internships were also awarded to Dylan Triplett, a third-year auto-body student, and Hunter Trent, a second-year auto-body student, both of whom are interning at Abingdon Collision & Towing; and Kace Dingus, a second-year networking student, interning at Holston IT in Bristol, Tennessee.
What these internships signify is a push by our career and technical schools to prepare students for the kinds of careers that are often overlooked by students and their parents as they prepare for life beyond high school graduation.
With so many of these occupations so desperate for new recruits to replace the retiring older generation, programs such as these internships have been developed in conjunction with the businesses and industries that are in need of new blood.
While these students can learn the fundamentals of their chosen careers in school, they need hands-on experience in the real world to make them ready to take the available jobs. And many of them are promised jobs right out of school as a reward for their participation.
One upshot of these programs is that these students aren’t running up massive student loan debt that they might have to worry about — literally for decades — if they were pursuing four-year college degrees with little prospect for good jobs after graduation.
The signing event was meant to bring “more recognition to career and technical education,” Johnson said, adding that there are about 600 Washington County students enrolled at the Abingdon school. Of those, about 15 each year find internships through the school.
“Potentially, agreements and opportunities like this will be life-changing for our career and technical students,” said Brian Ratliff, superintendent of Washington County Public Schools. “This is the first time we have formalized the internships through a signing day. It makes it more official, and it opens the door for more opportunities.”
We should support these programs as much as we can so we can keep our young people in our communities, rather than watch them move away to find better opportunities elsewhere.
“I’d like to see our students not have to leave the region to pursue what they want to do,” Johnson said.
These training opportunities also help our local businesses and industries find the qualified workers they desperately to keep their operations going, which helps keep our community strong and growing.