- Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational and Wage Estimates 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/
- Colorado Department of Education, Job Skills Report 2015, http://highered.colorado.gov/Data/Workforce/JobSkillsPage.html
- Projections Central, projectionscentral.com
- National Center for Education Statistics, http://www.nces/ipeds
It is currently a great time to pursue a vocational career in Colorado, for two reasons. First, the largest number of job openings in Colorado are projected to require less than an associate degree for employment. Second, there are numerous accessible training options available to you in Colorado.
Reports from the Center for Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University project that by 2020, 30 percent of occupations in the U.S. will require an associate degree, certificate or post-secondary training beyond high school. Colorado is no different, with a projected 32 percent of occupations in the state requiring some form of post-secondary training for employment by 2020. The state has prioritized investments in education and professional development in order to produce a qualified and educated workforce.
The 14 key industries supported by the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade are aligned closely with vocational training sectors.
Colorado is forming partnerships between education and business in order to connect students with training programs and experiences that will prepare them for entry into the workforce. In addition to sector partnerships training, you can also pursue career and technical education at community colleges, regional training centers, and public universities.
Vocational education trends and opportunities in Colorado
To enter a vocational, or mid-level, field, you must hold a credential that is better than a high school diploma, but less than a four-year degree. These vocational education options include certificate, diploma, credential, or complete coursework for licensing examinations. Most vocational training programs can be completed in two or fewer years of study.
Data from the National Center of Education Statistics shows that programs lasting less than one year (e.g. certificate and diplomas) were the most popular vocational choice in Colorado, followed by associate degrees. The most popular vocational programs of study in Colorado in 2013 included:
- Health care: 12,350 degrees
- Mechanic and repair technologies: 2,838 degrees
- Business: 2,467 degrees
- Construction: 1,301 degrees
- Homeland security: 1,176 degrees
Prospective students should be encouraged that the 14 key industries supported by the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) are aligned closely with vocational training sectors, including the following: Advanced Manufacturing, Aerospace, Bioscience, Creative Industries, Defense & Homeland Security, Electronics, Energy & Natural Resources, Financial Services, Food & Agriculture, Health & Wellness, Infrastructure Engineering, Technology & Information, Tourism & Outdoor Recreation, and Transportation & Logistics. To get a sense of the size and scope of these central industries, consider these figures from OEDIT:
- Advanced Manufacturing: More than 5,900 manufacturing business with more than 120,000 employees in Colorado
- Defense & Homeland Security: Employs more than 73,000 individuals in Colorado
- Health & Wellness: More than 253,000 individuals work in health and wellness occupations in Colorado
Career opportunities for graduates of Colorado trade schools
According to the Colorado Department of Education, three vocational fields with the best outlook for employment opportunities include:
- Computer-related occupations
- Skilled trades
- Science technicians
However, a review of both degree and state-level employment data from the National Center of Education Statistics and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reveals that health care is the best overall industry for individuals considering a vocational education. Of the ten careers employing the most people in Colorado in 2013, four health care careers made the list, including the following:
- Registered Nurses: 41,860 employed
- Nursing Assistants: 17,200 employed
- Medical Assistants: 9,030 employed
- Dental Assistants: 6,050 employed
Half of the ten fastest growing career fields in Colorado are in health care, with diagnostic medical sonographers projected to see the largest employment change in the state between 2012 and 2022. You can complete training for each of these occupations in two or fewer years of study.
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
Geological and Petroleum Technicians
Postsecondary non-degree award
Medical Equipment Repairers
Veterinary Technologists and Technicians
Occupational Therapy Assistants
Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians
Environmental Science and Protection Technicians
Postsecondary non-degree award
Source: Projections Central, 2013
Expert advice on vocational education in Colorado with Lauren Jones
Opting for a degree of any kind can be a tough decision. We wanted to know more about the importance of vocational education from an educator's standpoint. Lauren Jones is the Program Director for Career Guidance, Counseling & ACE for Career & College Readiness Initiatives through the Colorado Community College System. Here are her thoughts on the role of vocational and technical training in Colorado.
Lauren Jones is the Program Director for Career Guidance, Counseling & ACE for Career & College Readiness Initiatives through the Colorado Community College System.
Q: What is vocational education and why is it important?
A: First and foremost, we now refer to vocational education as Career & Technical Education (CTE). In Colorado our mission is: Colorado CTE delivers proven pathways to lifelong career success! CTE ensures a thriving Colorado economy by providing relevant and rigorous education that is connected, responsive and real. Nationwide CTE is defined as: to guide the future of education for all students. Its ultimate goal: to prepare students of all ages to succeed in education and careers -- and enable the United States to flourish in a dynamic and increasingly competitive global economy.
Q: How do employers view graduates of CTE programs in Colorado?
A: In Colorado, in 2015, employers view graduates of technical colleges with utmost desire, respect and quick placement. With a growing economy and high need in skilled career fields, we are seeing more placement of graduates in fields such as Energy, Hospitality & Tourism, Advanced Manufacturing and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) related fields. This type of training for the right person can be done in a short amount of time and can either be employer funded or be affordable in cost for families who may be in or around the poverty line.
Q: How can a CTE degree and training help students land a job?
A: These skilled workers/graduates typically graduate with a certificate (6 weeks to 1 year) or license and associate degrees. In Colorado, we focus on the national platform of Career & College Readiness (CCR) skills and interpret them to be Postsecondary Workforce Readiness (PWR) skills. A very teachable acronym for many in our secondary and postsecondary educational entities. PWR includes: problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, innovation, global & cultural awareness, collaboration, communication, work ethic, finding and using information technology and content/subject knowledge.
Q: What should prospective students consider before selecting a program?
A: Begin with themselves -- who they are, their values, personality, learning, and leadership styles. Explore themselves first. Then begin to explore the related career paths aligned to their interest then available to them, then begin to plan and manage their academic path working in some personal financial literacy (cost/benefits to education and employment salary).