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Job opportunities expected in trades

Thousands of baby boomers are retiring from trades every day, and local educators say that this will mean a huge opportunity for students going into this area of work.

“One of the biggest factors in this field of work is that companies are looking more for high technical employees who have degrees from trade schools,” Allen Teel, an industrial electronics instructor at Lurleen B. Wallace Community College, said. “A lot of these companies will not be around if we lose workers that can do that work and they are huge keys to economic growth.”

The baby boomers are the generation born post World War II, between 1946 and 1964, and according to according to the Pew Research Center, 10,000 baby boomers are retiring daily.

“Another issue is that the baby boomers who made up a big percentage of the work force are retiring,” Teel said. “For every kid that graduates from a trade school, there are five to six baby boomers retiring, so companies are now having to hire five to six people to train just to make up for what they are losing.”

With the increase in jobs, this leaves a huge gap for incoming students who want to be a part of the labor force.

“For most 20 year old kids in these jobs, it’s not unusual for them to receive a $50-$60,000 dollar salary starting out,” Teel said. “The minimum in these jobs is $16 to $18 an hour and it won’t take them long to get into the $20 range.”

LBWCC is making it easier for students to achieve these technical degrees by allowing dual enrollment classes.

Andalusia High School agriculture instructor Anthony Mikel said that allowing these kids to go ahead and get these courses will help them in the long run.

“There will be job openings galore in this area of work,” Mikel said. “So we have several kids taking welding, industrial electronics and manufacturing classes as dual enrollment classes at LBW.”

Teel said that the enrollment for these courses has been stable over the last five years.

“Overall it seems to be stable,” Teel said. “Though the demand for graduates is increasing because the companies are basing their hiring on their need of workers.”

The educators agree that there once was a social stigma on trade programs.

“I have always heard that trade schools are for people who can’t make it through college,” Teel said. “Now, it is the complete opposite.”

Mikel said that the tide is changing when it comes to trade schools.

“It is not looked down upon anymore,” Mikel said. “Because now, students are making more than people with bachelors degrees.”

One piece of advice that Mikel gives to young students hoping to go to trade school is to keep their grades up while in high school.

“Academics are always important,” Mikel said. “Even in welding programs, there will always be a minimum grade point average and entrance tests.”

At LBW, there are several general education requirements that students will have to complete before obtaining their degree including English composition, intermediate college algebra, fine arts, history and oral communications.

“We make students take these courses because it helps in the work field,” Teel said. “We do make it a lot easier because we put things into perspective, but they do need to have these basic fundamentals.”