Virginia has a need for workers to fill middle-skill jobs. These careers do not require a four-year degree, but some training and education beyond high school is usually recommended. According to the National Skills Coalition, nearly half of all jobs in Virginia are middle-skill and will account for 46 percent of all job openings in the state. In addition to potential job opportunities after graduation, students in this state also have close proximity to a number of large cities and a huge number of schools to choose from.
Education Trends at Virginia Trade Schools
Vocational education traditionally includes credential, diploma, certificate and associate degree programs. These programs can usually be completed in two or fewer years of study and are offered by Virginia vocational schools, community colleges, technical and four-year universities. The most common programs were associate degrees, followed by programs that lasted at least one, but less than two academic years. The most popular vocational fields of study in Virginia included the following:
- Health care: Since health care has been one of the fastest-growing industries in the past few years, it tends to be a popular choice for vocational education. Nursing schools in Virginia can help prepare you for a number of different careers in health care, such as registered nurse, lab technician, medical assistant, EMT and paramedic, and more.
- Liberal arts and humanities: The liberal arts and humanities field covers a wide range of majors, such as English, journalism, film, communication, design and music, among others. Some liberal arts majors pick a specific focus of study, and those who choose a more general topic, such as English, can enter a number of different fields
- Business and marketing: A business degree is also versatile, as it can apply to a number of different industries. Many business majors end up in finance, online marketing, management or data analysis, among others. Virginia business schools could be a great supplement for those who already have a job and want to move into upper-level management.
- Computer and information sciences: This is another one of the fast-growing fields in the U.S. today, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Computer and IT is a unique field, in that many jobs prefer to see your skills and experience, rather than a four-year degree. Certifications, "coding boot-camp," and two-year degrees are becoming more standard in the computer industry, and the jobs tend to have higher average compensation than other associate-level jobs.
Career and Salary for Graduates of Virginia Technical Schools
According to data from the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry, the vocational-related fields that have been recently popular include health care support, computer, mathematics, and personal care services. Prospective vocational students in this state may also consider health care and related professions, due to their high demand nationwide. Below is a chart that shows popular skilled-trade jobs in the state of Virginia specifically, including some salary and job data:
|Career||Total Employment||Annual Mean Wage|
|Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics||20140||43270|
|Brickmasons and Blockmasons||2550||46470|
|Construction and Building Inspectors||3930||57310|
|Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers||9820||47850|
|Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters||12290||45150|
|Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers||7060||43980|
Keep in mind that with the state's close proximity to Washington DC and other large metro areas on the East Coast, students who graduate from Virginia may also be able to find better opportunities in the nearby cities.
Expert Advice on Vocational Schools in Virginia
To learn more about the role of vocational education in Virginia's job market, we sat down with Jerry Stewart, Workforce Development Coordinator for the Virginia Beach Department of Economic Development. He has 28 years of experience in workforce development and is currently the chair of the Virginia Beach City Public Schools General Advisory Council for Career and Technical Education.
Jerry Stewart is the Workforce Development Coordinator for the Virginia Beach Department of Economic Development.
RWM: What are the benefits of career and technical education?
Stewart: Career and Technical Education programs provide skill sets and knowledge opportunities for all students, whether they are considering careers after graduation, pursuing higher education or seeking a combination of both. If the student's interest is going directly into the workforce, the industry certifications available with Career and Technical Education program provide verification of the skills applicable to the employer. CTE programs also offer the students opportunities to explore multiple career pathways of interest.
RWM: How does CTE support workforce and economic development in Virginia?
Stewart: CTE is a vital partner in the success of workforce and economic development across the country. In Virginia Beach, several of our high-performance manufacturers need highly skilled employees to work in their advanced manufacturing facilities. CTE, and often times, post-secondary training, prepare graduates to go directly into these businesses with industry recognized certifications. With the expansion of dual enrollment at the secondary level, many high school graduates will have several credit hours upon graduation. CTE, along with their economic development partners, can increase the awareness of the availability of high paying jobs in the many different technical fields
RWM: Are there any CTE career clusters more in-demand than others in the state?
Stewart: Manufacturing skills appear to be in demand in many parts of the United States. The integration of even more Computer Numeric Control (CNC) machines in manufacturing facilities is driving the demand for higher skills. In Virginia Beach, new clusters identified by economic development and implemented with CTE programming, include entrepreneurship and cyber security.
RWM: In Virginia, how do employers view individuals with CTE or trade education?
Stewart: CTE graduates are in high demand, particularly students with industry certifications. Employers are confident with the skills of these potential employees. Virginia Beach City Public Schools' students obtained over 10,000 industry recognized certifications for the 2014-2015 year, and Economic Development markets this information to existing and new business prospects.
RWM: Are career fields that require CTE training expected to grow?
Stewart: As a result of my involvement in workforce development, CTE at the local level, and CTE at the state level, I agree with the projections for education required for future jobs. I suspect that past 2020, even a higher percentage of jobs will require some postsecondary education. I believe CTE training will continue to grow because quality CTE programs have the ability to quickly adapt and change to different training/skill needs in a business community. Strong CTE and economic/workforce development partnerships facilitate this because economic development can inform CTE administrators of the needs of their business community.
RWM: Do you have any advice for new CTE students?
Stewart: Explore the CTE programs offered at your school. If you are uncertain of your career aspirations or plans for higher education, CTE can prepare you with skills that get you a high paying job that will allow you time to explore potential careers prior incurring substantial college debt. Additionally, if you are certain that the four-year college track is your aspiration; many CTE programs can better prepare you to be successful in college/university. Industry credentials have also been proven to better prepare you for the college experience, often times even opening up part-time job opportunities while attending college.
Financial Aid in Virginia
Financial aid can be helpful for all students, even if you are financially stable. All students should first apply to FAFSA -- the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This is usually the first step in seeking out scholarships and grants. Next, you should visit your state's education website to find state-specific aid in Virginia. If you're a Virginia resident and are attending school in-state, there are a number of options for you, including a few of the following:
- Commonwealth Award Program: This is a need-based grant program for Virginia residents. You must be already attending college or already accepted into a college program in order to qualify. Ask your school for more details on this grant.
- Virginia Guaranteed Assistance Program (VGAP): This is an incentive program for low-income students. Applicants must have a higher GPA and show exceptional academic performance to qualify for this.
- Tuition Assistance Grand Program (VTAG): This is a program specific to students of private, non-profit schools in Virginia. Applications for this are usually turned in before July 31st.
- ACTE, Issue Brief, https://www.acteonline.org/uploadedFiles/Assets_and_Documents/Global/files/Publications/Transitions.pdf
- 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 Jerry Stewart, 7/31/2015
- National Center for Education Statistics, http://www.nces.com/ipeds
- National Skills Coalition, Virginia, http://www.nationalskillscoalition.org/resources/publications/file/middle-skill-fact-sheets-2014/NSC-Minnesota-MiddleSkillFS-2014.pdf
- Projections Central, Virginia, http://www.projectionscentral.com
- Virginia Career View, Career Clusters, http://www.vaview.vt.edu/clusters/
- Virginia Department of Labor and Industry, Employment Projections, https://data.virginialmi.com/vosnet/Default.aspx
- Federal Student Aid, https://fafsa.ed.gov/