Technical Colleges remain relevant, promising even through recession

Policies lagging to help maximize employment and fill skills gap

Wisconsin unemployment figures peaked in 2009-2010, however technical college graduates continue to find employment in their fields and in relatively short time. The majority (88 percent, up two percent from 2009) of graduates are finding jobs within six months (as reported in the Wisconsin Technical College System’s Graduate Follow-up, which examines employment status, earnings, and other factors six months after graduation).

In addition to finding jobs in their fields, graduates' salary levels continue to improve. The report details the median salary overall for technical college graduates is $31,200; for new associate degree graduates is $35,700. while graduates of high-demand service, technical and marketing-related careers invite the highest median salary. Some really impressive salary data pertains to jobs like: Information Systems Security, where the median salary is $72,500 and Industrial Mechanical Technicians, with a median salary of $55,300. Likewise, the median salary of graduates working in Diagnostic Medical Sonography is $60,300.

The unemployment rate can't improve much until we strike a balance between the skills needed for the jobs and the skills the job seekers have. Currently, many of the job openings require specific skills beyond a high school degree but more specific than a bachelor degree provides. Many of today's unemployed lack education beyond high school. Mike Rowe, host of "Dirty Jobs" is leading a campaign to change the perceptions of the skilled labor-based careers to help employees find work in a growing part of the economy, thanks in part to a lot of retirements, and help employers develop the workforce necessary to their success. The technical colleges will continue to help students find their passion and reach their potential, but to really maximize the benefit from the potential opportunities ahead, we need to work collectively to improve the perception of high-skill, family supporting jobs that have become undervalued over the years.

The Graduate Follow-up Report surveyed 27,712 graduates from 2009 and 68 percent responded. The report is available at www.wtcsystem.edu/reports/data/graduate/index.htm.