WACO, Texas — As the need for skilled workers increases nationwide, enrollment in trades programs across the country is following suit.
This comes as total enrollment in two- and four-year colleges and universities is falling, according to a recently released report by the National Student Clearinghouse. His research found that enrollment in public and private institutions, full-time enrollment fell 3.8% between spring 2021 and spring 2022. It had fallen 3.5% the previous year.
Meanwhile, the study shows that enrollments are increasing in the fields of construction, mechanical technology and agriculture.
National enrollment in two-year institutions in construction trades programs increased by 19.3%. In mechanical and repair technologies, registrations are up 11.5%. In agriculture-related studies, enrollment is up 47.8%.
Texas State Technical College in Waco is seeing similar trends in its trades programs as many retire and leave high demand for a new generation of workers.
“There are a lot of people who have carried this torch, carried the keys for a while,” said Jerome Mendias, associate provost of TSTC’s Waco campus. “But now it’s time for the new generations and so those are jobs that we just can’t outsource, and in fact we have to be Texans or people from that area.”
Many students, like 20-year-old Hayden Asbury, are transitioning from a traditional four-year schooling to vocational training. He decided to enroll in TSTC’s Diesel Technology program.
“I kind of went out on a limb and when I got here I loved it right away,” Asbury said.
Students said the number of job opportunities and high salaries are factors that are encouraging more and more students to turn to trade schools.
“Personally, I was so advantaged looking for a job because people need people like me,” Asbury said.
He said trade school stereotypes can still prevent some people from taking advantage of all the benefits they have to offer.
“Personally, the big thing even deciding to come here was being comfortable with the idea that a lot of people have that I would be less educated. Which isn’t true, but that’s still a stigma. that exists,” he said.
However, this stigma seems to be diminishing as enrollment continues to increase.