Growing number of Kentucky students heading to trade schools

WKYT looks at the growing popularity of trades.
Growing number of Kentucky students heading to trade schools
Published: Jun. 2, 2022 at 2:02 PM EDT
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CLARK COUNTY, Ky. (WKYT) - Tens of thousands of Kentucky high school students graduated this school year. Many will go on to colleges and universities, but a growing number are heading to trade schools instead.

WKYT looks at the growing popularity of trades, through the lens of Clark County’s Area Technology Center.

650 high school students spend time in Clark County’s ATC, earning credits in six different pathways. For almost every student, the credits convert to real-world experience.

“They can get their nursing assistant certification, phlebotomy tech certification, pharmacy tech certification, or EMT,” notes Heather Abner. Abner is a registered nurse and a teacher in the health science pathway. The program was much smaller when she started 13 years ago.

“I had one class of nurse aides of eight, and now I have three classes of nursing assistants. We have three phlebotomy classes, one EMT, one sports med, and one pharmacy class,” says Abner. “I’ve got several kids that are co-oping and going to work instead of doing the internship so they’re working in nursing homes.”

“Most of them are going to out to local businesses and getting a job,” explains Kevin Warner. He teaches in the automotive pathway. “Everything we do here in the ATC is all hands-on. If you’ve got people that want those jobs, most of them don’t want to go to a four-year college. It’s big money. Most of them want to do hands-on stuff, they’re more interested in it. So yes, in the last ten years, we’ve probably got a majority of our kids are actually going out and getting jobs off the bat.”

“They either go right into the workforce with a very competitive job, or they can finish an associate’s degree at BCTC, or they can even walk right into a college program because some can even finish with an associate’s degree before they leave between dual credit classes that are offered at GRC and here at ATC,” explains Superintendent Dr. Molly McComas. “My husband’s in trades. My son graduated with an associate’s in trades. I think the reality of the importance of trades is becoming more profound now than it ever has been.”

Clark County’s program is one of 51 area technology centers and regional academies across the state.

“In Clark County what we want to do is not ask a kid, ‘what do you want to do when you go to college?’ We really want to ask kids, ‘what are you interested in? Let’s help you find your passion.’ And then we’ve got multiple pathways,” notes Dr. McComas.

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