Utah has seen a huge population boom in recent years, and the job opportunities reflect the trend, with numerous jobs in the state posting double-digit growth expectations, according to Projections Central. Many of those jobs with impressive growth numbers happen to be available to those who have an associate degree or less. That's a very good reason for aspiring students to look into the possibilities at vocational and trade schools in Utah.
Education Trends at Utah Trade Schools
Trade schools in this state have opened doors for many graduates. Though four-year degrees are popular, many students opted to earn a certificate through Utah schools. The most popular field for two-year degrees or certificates is usually health sciences. Other popular options include consumer services and manufacturing, construction, repair and transportation.
Of the students who choose to earn an associate degree in this state, the health sciences are again typically the most popular area of study. Other popular fields included:
- Business management
- Protective services
- Science technologies
Career Outlook for Utah Trade School Grads
Utah offers a wide variety of job opportunities for those who graduate from vocational schools or programs in the state; in fact, the vast majority of the fastest-growing jobs in the state are open to those with an associate degree or less. According to Utah.gov, the following are the top five fastest-growing occupations for which education to achieve postsecondary certification may be available:
|Career||Total Employment||Annual Median Wage|
|Electrical and Electronics Repairers, Powerhouse, Substation, and Relay||140||89390|
|General and Operations Managers||31180||70150|
Expert Advice on Vocational Education in Utah
To find out more about the role of trade school and vocational education in this state, we spoke with Peg Newman, founder of Sanford Rose Associates® - Newman Group. Peg has been recruiting for a broad variety of leading companies for business operations, industry specific specialized positions and key leadership roles in insurance, banking, commercial lending, health care, accounting, manufacturing, engineering, construction, oil and gas, supply chain, etc. (to name a few).
Peg Newman is the founder of Sanford Rose Associates® - Newman Group.
RWM: How do employers view vocational education, as opposed to a four-year degree?
Newman: A two year degree is not as viable as a four-year degree in Utah -- although there are exceptions. Some of the tech companies here (and there are many) are less concerned about your degree than about what you know.
The business community is so strong that a two-year degree vs. four-year will not preclude you from positions. You may not be the first hire -- but you won't be the last.
A four-year degree is generally preferred, but the demand in technology and bio tech has created a real focus on the individual's skill. I have heard from tech companies that they work closely with university programs, tech schools etc. to get the experience and training for future employees included in the first two years of their education for technology-related careers, so that they can hire people while they are completing the rest of their education.
So what an employee's associate degree has included will be key to being considered for hire without the four-year degree -- general education not as exciting to a new employer as related, skill based curriculum.
RWM: What should students look for when considering a program?
Newman: In technology specifically the A+ certification is important for tech support, again entry level roles. Also, Coding certifications in the medical field and HIMS are always appreciated. The big differentiator is where the vocational certificates come from. Some institutions programs are more well regarded than others - it can get as granular on the local level to who is teaching/instructing the students in the program. In my opinion, before a student enrolls in a program, verify with a group of 5 or so potential future employers, which of the certs and which programs they respect the most and prefer to hire from.
RWM: Which industries in Utah are looking specifically for those who graduated from vocational programs?
Newman: Technology always, Medical fields -- CAN at the simplest.
RWM: Is there anything about vocational schools in Utah that is different from schools in other states?
Newman: The one thing I believe we do in Utah although I can't really speak to other states, is encourage communication between institutions, programs for certification etc., as to what the curriculum should include in order to prepare a student for a job within our employment community.
RWM: Anything you might like to add about what vocational graduates can expect when they apply for jobs in Utah?
Newman: Probably a bit of a proving in - they may have to consider a more entry level role than they would like to 'prove' what they have learned. I might suggest that if unpaid externships are available to build a work history they consider that - possibly even offer to work in an externship role to get a foot in the door.
Financial Aid in Utah
When applying for financial aid to attend trade or vocational schools in Utah, the first step should always be completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA is required in order to be considered for federal aid, as well as most state aid programs and even some private scholarships. Deadlines are strict, so be sure to double-check the deadlines for Utah well before it's time to apply to college.
There are many state-based options for financial aid, including grants and scholarships. Here are a few worth exploring in Utah:
- Step Up Utah: This clearinghouse of financial aid information is very specific to Utah and includes sections for parents, students, educators and more.
- Regents' Scholarship: This scholarship for those entering the Utah System of Higher Education is designed to prepare high school students for college or vocational training while allowing them to save toward their future education.
- Utah Futures: This site is home to information on scholarships, financial aid options, job search and resume help, career assessments and much more.
- Career/Technical Education Statistics, National Center for Education Statistics, https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/ctes/tables/index.asp?LEVEL=COLLEGE
- Quick Facts: Utah, U.S. Census Bureau, http://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045215/49,00
- Utah Job Outlook, Department of Workforce Services, September 2014, https://jobs.utah.gov/wi/pubs/outlooks/state/
- Utah Long-Term Occupational Projections, Projections Central, http://www.projectionscentral.com/projections/longterm
- Utah Job Outlook, updated September 2013, Utah.gov, http://jobs.utah.gov/wi/pubs/outlooks/index.html
- Interview with Peg Newman, Founder of Sanford Rose Associates® - Newman Group, June 2016