Technical colleges continue to boost Wisconsin’s economy

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By Erin Eagan


Every year, thousands of technical college graduates proudly receive their degrees and diplomas. Subsequently, thousands more will take their place on campus in hopes of achieving similar success. These students start out with dreams of finding a rewarding career and bettering their lives — and the majority of them see it through.

Graduates of Wisconsin’s 16 technical colleges have a proven track record of finding immediate employment in their chosen field. The proof is in the Graduate Outcomes Report released each spring by the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS). This year’s report is based on a survey of more than 25,000 individuals who graduated from a technical college in 2016.

Of the 16,822 graduates who responded, 93 percent were employed within six months of graduation. For the seven percent who weren’t employed, 86 percent of them cited wanting to continue their education as the reason — so it’s just a matter of time before they join their peers in the workforce.

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Making an Impact on the Economy
For over 100 years, technical colleges have been a boon to local and statewide economies. As a whole, WTCS educates approximately one in 10 state residents in over 400 industry-driven programs in high-demand sectors. Graduates of these programs enter the labor force prepared for highly skilled technical professions — a win-win for graduates and Wisconsin employers, as the majority of graduates stay in state after graduation.

In fact, this year’s Graduate Outcome results indicate that 93 percent of graduates stay in Wisconsin to live and work — that’s a 12 percent increase over last year. Many of those (70 percent) work within their own college district, while the remainder (23 percent) still work somewhere within Wisconsin.

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Every student is different and the multitude of course offerings reflect that. Depending on the program, graduates of technical colleges receive a two-year associate degree, a one- or two-year technical diploma or a short-term diploma or certificate — all of which can pay high dividends. In 2016, the median annual salaries for each credential type were:

  • Associate Degree ($41,000)
  • Two-Year Diploma ($37,849)
  • One-Year Diploma ($33,777)
  • Short-Term Diploma ($29,950)

With a variety of industries in high demand, Wisconsin employers are paying competitive salaries to obtain and retain skilled workers. The top five career fields ranked by median salary are as follows:

1.    Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
Types of Programs: Electronics, Utilities Engineering Technology, Mechanical CAD Drafting 
Median Salary: $44,457

2.    Information Technology
Types of Programs: Network Specialist, Web Developer, Software Developer 
Median Salary: $42,308

3.    Architecture and Construction
Types of Programs: Construction Management Technology, Civil Engineering Drafter, Interior Design 
Median Salary: $41,597

4.    Law, Public Safety and Security
Types of Programs: Paralegal, Paramedic, Fire Science, Criminal Justice
Median Salary: $40,000

5.    Manufacturing
Types of Programs: Welding, Appliance Technician, Tool and Die Making, Wood Technology 
Median Salary: $39,855

It’s no coincidence that some of the highest paying professions are also those in dire need of trained workers. Within the career fields, there are several occupations where graduates can start out making over $60,000 annually. Examples include Manufacturing Engineering Technologist ($64,000), Web Developer ($63,897), Gas Utility Construction & Service ($63,123) and Cardiovascular Technologist ($61,730).

More than half of Wisconsin's job openings in the next decade will require technical education, and Wisconsin’s technical colleges and its graduates will play a vital role in filling them. In tandem, they will continue to foster the state’s economic growth.