Unparalleled opportunities: Tapping into the trades Part 1

“It’s kind of exciting to have a student visit Metro who doesn’t think college is an option for them, then they see one of these classrooms and say ‘this is exactly what I want to do and I can do it here at MCC,’” said Aubrey Baxter, Enrollment Specialist for the Trades at Metropolitan Community College.

Metro has three campuses with 16 different trades programs.

Baxter said the Construction Education Center is located on the Fort Omaha campus and offers training in construction, architectural design, civil engineering, plumbing, HVAC and electrical.

The South Omaha campus provides instruction in welding, precision machine, process operation, industrial and commercial trades. They also have an automotive program.

Metro’s Applied Technology Center is located off 104th and State Streets. Baxter explained this is where Metro trains students in transportation courses and utility line work.

“Students can get their CDL after six weeks there or attend a night program that takes nine weeks. Right now, there are job opportunities everywhere in CDL. But we also offer courses in auto collision and diesel too,” she said.

Right now, Baxter said the Construction Education Center is the most exciting thanks to a huge project the students are working on together.

“Our students are working together to build a fully functioning house out in our capstone lab. This isn’t a house they’re going to build and then tear down. Someone will actually live in it. I don’t know if you can get any more real-world, hands-on experience for the students than that,” explained Baxter.

She said the project is modeled to be a job site. Students will wear hard hats, boots and other safety gear. They will clock in and out.

“Through projects like these, we are doing our best to prepare them for when they go out into industry,” Baxter said.

Metro is all about jobs and Baxter said the trade programs are no different. She said Metro has advisory committees that build its programs.

“Most of our instructors have been in the industry 20-30 years. Many of them have retired but decided to come back to pass their knowledge on. This is great because they’ve seen and done everything and an share that with students,” said Baxter.

Even though she grew up around blue-collar workers, those types of jobs were never presented to Baxter as options for employment. Her generation, like many others, was told they needed to get a four-year degree.

The result of that advice? There’s now a huge gap and plenty of trades jobs that are going unfilled.

“For every five positions that are available (because people are retiring), we only have one person with the skills to fill it,” she said.

Baxter feels there will be problems soon if people don’t come to realize the value of these careers. And make no mistake, there’s plenty of money to be made in these fields too.

As Baxter explained, “I would say the average income for our students coming out of MCC is about 40k per year – and that’s the low end. When you’re graduating college with no debt because Metro is so affordable and you’re making 40k, that’s a good start.”

She said though students might be able to get a job in the trades before they finish their Associate’s degree, Metro specifically encourages people to stay with the program till they graduate.

“Once they have that degree, they’re able to move up in the company quickly. And some of these companies offer tuition and tool reimbursements as well as scholarships,” Baxter said.

Metro has a lot of non-traditional students and Baxter said there are those pursuing training in the trades because they couldn’t find a job they enjoyed.
Cheril Lee

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