With the escalating cost of college tuition and the shrinking job market for college graduates, youths should seriously consider attending a technical school instead, Elmore County Technical Center principal Jimmy Hull said.
The job market is wide-open and in demand of plumbers, welders, electricians, automotive mechanics, carpenters and others with similar technical skills, Hull said.
“It really is the future,” Hull said. “The job market is really calling for people in these areas. It’s not all just dirty work. Some of this stuff is very technical, suit-and-tie-type jobs. But there are also other trades out there and they all pay really well.”
The school also offers computer technology, aviation technology, firefighting, training as prison guards, hospitality and tourism and pre-engineering, according to the school’s brochure.
Hull, 44, said he grew to adulthood in Holtville and graduated from Holtville High School. He graduated from Auburn Montgomery and returned to Holtville High to teach four years. After getting his master’s degree in administration at AUM he worked as assistant principal at Holtville Middle School and served 10 years as principal of his old high school beginning in 2004.
Hull earned his doctorate in education leadership policy and law at Alabama State and moved on to become principal at the technical school.
“I always had a great appreciation for career tech education,” he said. “I didn’t have a background directly in it but I always had a great appreciation for it.”
Hill said a misconception still exists that technical/trade schools are for youths not suitable for or interested in college.
“Our goal is to prepare students for the day they are no longer students, whether that’s right after high school, right after college, additional college or whatever the case may be,” he said. “Eventually, they are all going to work, hopefully, and that’s our goal. So when they are finished, there are jobs available. Study trends show construction trades are always needing skilled workers.”
Hull said the term for trade school changed to technical school about 15 years ago.
“It was just a need to update and create a perception of the programs aligned with current job needs, current workforce needs and industry development because things were changing,” he said.
Hull said he got into education because he enjoys working with youths with hopes of guiding them to a good future. About 700 youths in grades 10 to 12 split their days attending the technical school and high school.
“It’s very serious,” Hull said. “All of the programs are all very career focused. We have 12 programs here. They are all focused on specific careers, specific pathways. We try to have a simulated workplace environment where we try to make the programs as much like the jobs would be.”
Students are not only taught a job skill but how to work with others at a job site, Hull said.
“We meet and talk with industry leaders,” he said. “And a lot of them tell us the same things. It’s not necessarily about the technical skills — those are all very important — but what they tell us mostly is students must understand the importance of showing up at work on time, showing up every day, putting their cell phones up, knowing how to talk with people and just being part of a team that can work well.”