SIERRA VISTA — Across the nation, the call for skilled workers is in high gear.
There are more jobs than workers, and the demand to hire them is heating up, especially in Arizona where the National Skills Association says 51% of Arizona jobs require skills training beyond high school.
That’s why Cochise College held its second annual Skills Trades Day March 30 that brought 300 students from across the county, along with 25 teachers and administrators, for the outreach event at the Sierra Vista campus.
They weren’t disappointed with what they found, which for many, could turn out to be a potential career path.
Like Benson Digital Learning Center’s Brycen Lee and Ronan Cluff, who have been enrolled for almost two years in Cochise College’s High School Skilled Trades Program. High schoolers have visited the campus on Friday for the last three years to earn foundational certificates in welding, HVAC, culinary arts, automotive work, residential electrical installation and residential construction.
“I never knew how to wire anything at all before,” said Lee, who is 15. “Since I’ve been taking the residential electrical program, I’ve learned the skills to wire an entire house from the bottom up and have made it a possible career path. There are businesses here today looking for part-time summer electrical help so I’ve come to see if I can get hired on.”
One of four brothers who have taken the college’s welding course, Cuff couldn’t say enough positives about the program.
“It’s been a really great experience, everything’s been hands-on learning,” he said. “I never welded before, but I’ve become really good at it, and it’s given me a direction to what field I want for a career.”
With businesses seeking highly-skilled workers to fill scores of trades, the event gave students a chance to learn about the college’s 42 short-term certificate programs, 28 of which can be completed within a year or less. Each one is designed to equip students with the latest skills and knowledge required to excel in the ever-changing job market.
With baby boomers retiring faster than companies can fill job openings, increasing the demand for skilled workers — a trend experts say will continue for at least the next two decades — students at the college’s Skills Trades Day were eager to take a hard look at tomorrow’s opportunities today from KE&G, ALTA Vista, Jmax Electrical, SSVEC, Landmark Metal, Vista Pros HVAC, Eagle Plumbing, HDS Truck, and Western Technologies of Tucson, which participated in Thursday’s event.
“The enthusiasm we’re seeing for this event is just phenomenal,” said Assistant Dean of Workforce Development Karl Griffor. “We’ve had a waiting list of kids wanting to be here for this. Over the years, the skilled trades have decreased in being a focus. Everyone Is convinced that a four-year college degree is a must, but I’m not.
“The day a student graduates from high school and has earned a skilled trades certificate here, he can start earning money in a career. This is making a difference, not only in their lives, but can only help Sierra Vista grow by retaining career-minded people instead of seeing them go somewhere else.”
At Thursday’s event, there were 17 displays from employers in automotive technology, light vehicle diesel, culinary, computer information, HVAC, drafting and welding. Student from San Simon, Center for Academic Success, Bisbee, Wilcox, Bowie, Omega Alpha, Valley Union, Benson Digital, PPepTec in Douglas and Sierra Vista and Buena also toured the college’s facilities, participated in hands-on demonstrations and met with current students.
“It opens up different pathways and options for students coming from little schools in Sam Simon, Bowie and charter schools to larger ones like Buena and Bisbee,” said Griffor. “There’s a massive demand for students working in the skilled trades, and many employers are here today looking to hire those with those skills part-time and possibly have it turn into a full-time career when they graduate.”