In the state of North Carolina, higher education is a key economic driver. More than ever, local and regional businesses are relying on North Carolina technical schools to produce skilled employees that can help them grow. A recent study from North Carolina State University revealed that state job growth mirrors trends that are taking place on a national level -- low-wage, unskilled labor is being replaced with larger growth in industries requiring advanced training and technical skill.
Trends at Vocational Schools in North Carolina
Students who choose to pursue technical education in North Carolina will have a wide range of options to choose from. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 210 institutions of higher education call the state home. Included in that figure are 76 schools that offer bachelor's programs, 104 schools that offer associate degree programs, and 133 schools that offer certificates.
Within the skilled-trade industries, employment in certain careers is expected to surpass others. Jobs data from North Carolina shows the viable careers for vocational education:
- Registered nurses - This is one of the most popular vocational degree programs in the U.S. Since most health care jobs are growing, and becoming a registered nurse (RN) is such a common entryway into the medical field for those who cannot afford a 4-year degree, RN programs are a great option. For those who want an even faster route to a job in health care, you can look into licensed vocational nursing (LVN or LPN) programs or nursing aide programs.
- Preschool teachers - Becoming a preschool teacher does not require a 4-year degree like most teaching positions. You can earn an associate degree in child care or early childhood learning in order to qualify as a preschool teacher.
- Cosmetologists - Personal care services like cosmetology often require a certification or degree from an accredited cosmetology school. These programs can range anywhere from six months to three years. You can get cosmetology training at trade schools, community colleges, and even some big salons that may have training programs for new hires.
Career Info for North Carolina Trade School Grads
According to government sources and figures, careers in industries like health care, construction, and the skilled trades are expected to surge in the coming years. The following chart illustrates some of the technical jobs in North Carolina that only require a two-year degree or less. You can also find recent salary information and job availability for each career:
|Career||Total Employment||Annual Mean Wage|
|Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics||22340||40510|
|Brickmasons and Blockmasons||2310||37210|
|Construction and Building Inspectors||3360||51430|
|Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers||10800||41060|
|Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters||9340||40970|
|Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers||9000||38920|
Expert Advice on Vocational Education in North Carolina
As you can see, the opportunities for those with vocational and technical education are nearly endless. Whether you want to work in health care, begin a career in construction, or learn a skilled trade, North Carolina vocational schools have plenty to offer. To learn more about vocational education in the state, we sat down with Paul Dillon, Veteran employment and vocational education expert from Dillon Consulting.
Paul Dillon is a veteran employment and vocational education expert from Dillon Consulting.
How do employers view vocational education, as opposed to a four-year degree?
Dillon: "Vocational" education is an older term -- "career and technical education" is more contemporary. The majority of employment positions -- about 65% -- fall in the area of career and technical education. [For comparison, about 20% require a four-year college degree and the other 15% require high school or less.] That is, they require some specific training beyond a high school diploma, such as a certificate program, associate's degree program, or apprenticeship program that may be provided by a community college or a technical college. Employers see career and technical education as great preparation for these "skilled" positions. Major components of career and technical programs include career skills, workplace skills, leadership, and teamwork, so students are leaving these programs ready to succeed in the workplace. In many ways, students coming out of career and technical education programs are better prepared for entry in the workforce than graduates of four-year degree programs, since job shadowing and internships are an integral part of the career and technical education experience.
What are the benefits or drawbacks to technical training or trade school?
Dillon: The primary benefit is the attainment of skills that provide an opportunity to earn a decent salary. As the baby boomers continue to retire over the next ten years, many "technical" jobs -- such auto repair, welding, plumbing, and HVAC technicians -- will experience large employment shortages -- there simply aren't enough people being trained to replace those that are leaving. Significant employment opportunities in the health / medical sector over the coming years will provide opportunities for thousands of new nurses, medical technicians, and billing clerks, etc.
What should students look for when considering a program?
Dillon: Investigate the schools or other training options in the desired field. Visit the school -- take a tour and speak with a teacher or representative. Ask about job placement, and ask for names of companies that have hired the students upon completion. Then contact the companies and ask them which school has the best graduates. Give extra weight if the businesses seem to prefer a school. Also, pay attention to the cost of the program.
Which industries are best suited for vocational education, for North Carolina specifically?
Dillon: Nearly all industries include a large number of "skilled" workers. The latest round of reform in career and technical education focused on career pathways -- a sequence of learning from high school through postsecondary education (four-year degree, associate's degree, or professional certification). As schools developed these career pathways, a major focus was aligning these pathways with the expected needs of industry. Thus, most states aligned their programs to meet their specific needs.
What role does your specific industry play in the community?
Dillon: The work that I am doing involves providing support services for veterans who want to start their own businesses. Many veterans would benefit from career and technical education. Just to cite an example, the "Helmets to Hardhats" program connects National Guard reserve, retired and transitioning active-duty military service members with skilled training and career opportunities in the construction industry. Since many of programs of this type are approved at both the federal and state levels, veterans might be able to use their Montgomery G.I. Bill benefits to supplement their income while they learn valuable skills and job training. And, once they get enough experience, some veterans might want to start their own businesses.
Financial Aid in North Carolina
There are many options for those who need to seek financial aid in North Carolina. The College Foundation of North Carolina (CFNC) is a great place to start. Visit their website to get more details on scholarships and grants. But before searching for financial aid in North Carolina, be sure to apply for FAFSA - the free application for student aid. This is a federal program that's available to all students, regardless of location, and can be a great first step when considering financial aid.
In addition to filling out the FAFSA, many students will search for aid in their state. North Carolina offers a number of financial aid programs in two main categories: merit-based and need-based. The need-based scholarships are for students who have real financial hardships and could not pay for college otherwise. Merit-based scholarships are not based on need, but rather on academics and outstanding students. Here are a few examples of financial aid programs in North Carolina:
Need-based financial aid in North Carolina
- Assistance League of the Triangle Scholarship Program
- Duke Energy Power Careers Program in the Carolinas
- Golden LEAF Scholars Programs
- NC Community College Grant Program
- Penn Family Scholarship
Merit-based financial aid in North Carolina
- Business and Professional Women of Raleigh
- Forgivable Education Loans for Service
- North Carolina Education and Training Voucher Program
- North Carolina Principal Fellows Program (PFP)
- A Stronger Nation through Higher Education, Lumina Foundation, http://strongernation.luminafoundation.org/report/#north-carolina
- Expert Interview with Paul Dillon, Dillon Consulting, http://www.dillonconsult.com/
- Key Industries in North Carolina Overview, Thrive North Carolina, http://www.thrivenc.com/keyindustries/overview
- Long-Term Occupational Projections, Projections Central, http://projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
- May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, North Carolina, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nc.htm#47-0000
- National Center for Education Statistics, http://www.nces.gov
- North Carolina Department of Commerce, http://www.nccommerce.com/lead/research-publications/the-lead-feed/artmid/11056/articleid/98/nc-industry-projections-for-2012%E2%80%932022-look-to-services-for-growth
- Predicting North Carolina's Job Market in 2020, North Carolina State University, http://iei.ncsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/JobMarket.pdf
- State and County QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/37000.html