TUCSON, Ariz. - Southern Arizona is doing its part to help offset the nationwide shortage of skilled technical workers.
With career and technical education programs, students are getting hands-on experience before graduation.
"We feel these programs are directly related to industry and direct employment that will give our students a leg up opportunity on a career," Chuck McCollum, Tucson Unified's CTE Coordinator said.
According to the Superintendent for Pima Community College's JTED program, Kathy Prather, the industries seeing the greatest need right now for workers are diesel repair, HVAC, and electrical utilities.
"We're seeing that many of our students want to get certified, have an industry certification, before leaving high school," Prather said. "And then, use that to earn a higher wage while they go to school, and build on their education and skills."
This week, Gov. Doug Ducey proclaimed February as Career and Technical Education Month. CTE programs give students hands-on skills and experience to prepare them for college or a career after graduation. Gov. Ducey visited Southern Arizona schools on Friday to check out CTE and JTED programs.
More than 5,000 TUSD students are enrolled in CTE programs. McCollum says the programs are affordable options for students who want to look into a career and start moving forward.
"Let's use dental assisting, for example," McCollum said. "Dental assisting programs could cost up to $7,000 for a 13-week program for a student. If they take the dental assisting here, they're going to leave with certifications to go into employment, and it will not cost a student anything."
This week, Santa Rita High School broke ground on a new facility for diesel mechanics and dental assisting. Santa Rita will be the only school in TUSD to offer these programs starting next school year.