Arizona is known for its beautiful national parks and warm climate. It's also home to well-known schools such as the University of Arizona and Arizona State. Students who are interested in attending trade schools in Arizona may also consider the many community colleges and vocational schools located there.
Although half the jobs in the state are considered middle-skill, less than half of the state's workers possess a middle-skill education.
According to the National Skills Foundation, more than 50 percent of all jobs in Arizona are middle-skill, meaning that they typically require less than a four-year degree for entry level positions. While a skilled workforce is vital to Arizona's economic health, the state has an educational gap at the middle-skill level. Although half the jobs in the state are considered middle-skill, less than half of the state's workers possess a middle-skill education.
Vocational education trends in Arizona
The growing job market for individuals with a higher education means it is a great time for students to earn a vocational degree in Arizona. Vocational education, known as Career and Technical Education (CTE), is a foundation of the state's educational system. It prepares both secondary students to transition into postsecondary programs and equips students with technical skills for entry-level employment. Major benefits of Arizona technical schools include:
- Shorter time to completion
- Opportunity for students to align their academic interests with professional fields
At the post-secondary level, vocational education typically results in a two-year or less academic award, such as an associate, diploma, or certificate. Students can find these programs at community colleges, trade and technical schools, and some four-year universities. Here are a few examples of popular vocational fields of study in Arizona, according to NCES:
- Health Care: The health care field is popular in most states, possibly due to high demand, higher-than-average wages, and the potential for job security. Most students may consider attending nursing schools in Arizona, though community colleges and other vocational schools may also offer nursing programs or health care related programs. In most health care professions it's important to make sure your school is accredited by the proper organization, and often you need state licensing in order to be hired in most health care careers. Your program should prepare you for exams that you'll need to take to become certified or licensed in the state of Arizona.
- Business, Management and Marketing: This is often a popular degree with students who aren't sure what type of career they want to pursue. A business degree from an Arizona vocational school could be relevant to almost any industry, especially for those who are interested in starting their own business or service as a private contractor. While business degrees are not often thought of as "vocational," some of the vocational industries may require their upper-level management to attain some higher degree before they can be promoted. In general, we recommend a bachelor's degree in business, but many community colleges in Arizona may have shorter programs for those who can't commit to four extra years of study.
- Mechanic and Repair Technologies/Technicians: This field involves highly specialized trades, and often it's a good idea to decide what you'd like to specialize in before you dive into your training. Some big automotive companies may have training programs or might sponsor an apprenticeship to learn a certain trade. For mechanics and repairers, it's also crucial to have on-the-job experience, as many of the skills involved are hands-on and not ideal to learn in a classroom setting.
- Personal and Culinary Services: Most chefs attend culinary school at some point, even if they already know their trade quite well. Culinary schools in Arizona are just the ideal way to get hands-on training as a chef, to gain credibility in the workplace, and to learn skills and techniques that you may not be familiar with, even if you'll seldom use them in practice. It's important for chefs to be versatile and have a well-rounded knowledge base for all the different cooking techniques. This type of degree could also be relevant to those who want to become a baker or pastry chef, or even those who wish to start their own restaurant.
Career info for graduates of Arizona vocational schools
There are many opportunities for students who graduate from trade schools in Arizona. Below are a few examples of popular vocational industries in the state, and what to expect in terms of salary and job availability, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
|Career||Total Employment||Annual Median Wage|
|Mining and Geological Engineers, Including Mining Safety Engineers||440||80900|
|Chefs and Head Cooks||2310||38070|
|Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians||2860||37270|
|Computer Systems Analysts||15570||87640|
|Food Service Managers||3360||51130|
|Accountants and Auditors||20040||58620|
Prospective students considering attending Arizona vocational schools may want to consider the health care industry. Of the 40 careers with the greatest projected employment gains, 72 percent are health-related occupations.
Expert advice on vocational education in Arizona with Al Larson
The role of vocational education has changed in the past decade. To get a better sense of this impact on the job market and prospective students in Arizona, we interviewed Al Larson, Executive Director at Maricopa Skill Center.
What are the benefits of career and technical education?
The benefit of Career and Technical Education (CTE) is that it prepares students to be ready for high-skill and high-wage careers by providing technical, employability and job-specific skills.
How can a student decide if CTE is right for them?
When I am asked this question by prospective students, I first ask them, "How do you learn best, and what type of work would you like to do?" Some CTE programs are technical, some include learning a trade with specific skills and many programs prepare students for jobs that interface with others. According to the Association of Career and Technical Education, 81% of high school drop-outs say relevant, real-world learning opportunities would have kept them in high school. If you would like a career where you are working with your hands and your mind, CTE is for you.
What steps can students take to choose the right training path?
- Students can visit with a college counselor or career advisor.
- Meet with an instructor at a high school or college.
- Take a tour. Tours include seeing a program and receiving information about programs, the application process and ways to pay for school such as financial aid and scholarships.
- Use online tools such as YouTube to find jobs and careers that interest you or search the BLS website for career options that are based on your interest and abilities.
What should students consider in a CTE program?
When you are considering programs, find out if they match your interest and abilities. Are the jobs they prepare you for actually interesting to you? What do they pay? Are they in demand where you want to live? When you are researching specific schools and programs, consider the cost of school, are the graduates getting jobs, do you earn a credential that is recognized by industry and do instructors have real world experience that they can translate in a classroom. At Maricopa Skill Center, our programs are a lot more hands on and less classroom lecture so does that fit how you best learn?
What are the vocational trends in Arizona?
High demand occupations tend to be in the following areas:
- Health care - includes 12 of the 20 fastest growing occupations
- Information technology - includes cyber-technology and security
- Manufacturing and skilled trades - high-tech and clean manufacturing jobs, like precision machining, are the fastest growing sub-sectors in Arizona
- Human services - includes business and office program jobs, such as sales and customer care
- Hospitality and tourism
In short, there are many different jobs in these career areas that match a variety of personal interests and abilities, as well as great salary potential.
In Arizona, how do employers view career and technical education?
In general, employers are looking for a trained workforce where prospects have industry credentials that match their needs. They are looking for training to include technical skills that relate to the job at hand, but they also are looking for employees that show up, get along with others and understand that a company needs to make money in order for an employee to continue to get paid. CTE programs produce exactly that.
Al Larson is an Executive Director at Maricopa Skill Center.
Financial Aid in Arizona
There are many ways to help cut financial costs of college. The first step most students take is to fill out the FAFSA -- Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This is one of the most common form of financial aid for students, and the application can also be used to apply for many other types of financial awards.
If you're a resident in Arizona and also planning on attending college in the state, there are a number of different scholarships, grants and other awards specifically for students in Arizona. Typically it's good to start by checking Arizona's Department of Education website to find scholarships that you qualify for. Here are a few examples:
- Arizona Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership (AZLEAP): This grant is for students in low-income families, and you must be an undergraduate student and a resident in Arizona to qualify.
- The Arizona College Access Aid Program (ACAAP): This program is for students who are pursuing associate or bachelor's degrees at Arizona schools, and it specifically serves those who have financial need. The grant is free to apply, and students may re-apply every year.
- ACTE, Issue Brief, https://www.acteonline.org/uploadedFiles/Assets_and_Documents/Global/files/Publications/Transitions.pdf
- Arizona Department of Education, Career and Technical Education, http://www.azed.gov/career-technical-education/
- Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, Recovery: Job Growth and Education Requirements Through 2020, https://cew.georgetown.edu/report/recovery-job-growth-and-education-requirements-through-2020/
- Interview with Al Larson, 9/25/2015
- National Center for Education Statistics, http://www.nces.com/ipeds
- National Skills Coalition, Arizona, http://www.nationalskillscoalition.org/resources/publications/file/middle-skill-fact-sheets-2014/NSC-Minnesota-MiddleSkillFS-2014.pdf
- Projections Central, Arizona, http://www.projectionscentral.com
- Arizona Department of Employment and Population Statistics, Arizona Labor Statistics, https://laborstats.az.gov/employment-forecasts