Cape Coral Technical College - Fast paced, low cost, proven success
May 22, 2017 10:01AM
Accountants tell us numbers don’t lie. While more than half of high school grads choose not to attend college, for example, a far higher percentage who do attend fail to finish. It’s not necessarily the narrative higher education wishes to tell. Most everyone has a story of a college grad working in another field or paying huge loans that starting pay can’t cover.
And yet employers are scrambling to fill jobs that don’t require a university diploma. Construction trades in Southwest Florida are forever short on workers, for example.
The irony is that these non-degree professions pay good wages. A plumber or a mechanic can expect immediate work and decent pay. A high-end hair stylist or a computer troubleshooter can earn excellent wages, according to labor studies conducted by federal agencies and the National Education Association.
Despite this, unemployment among teens and young adults is high. Some 20 million young people ages 16 to 24 were not working in a six-month period last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Kevin Hawk, a career specialist with Cape Coral Technical College, finds these numbers alarming―and unnecessary. The school has for decades provided vocational training in such fields as medical, culinary, cosmetology, web and electronic technology. It and Fort Myers Technical College, which provides training in health, building trades, manufacturing, public safety and hospitality, are both part of the Lee County School District. “Employers tell us they need workers,” says Hawk, “especially in Cape Coral, a city of 160,000 people. We’re here to meet that demand.”
Cape Coral Technical College is situated off Santa Barbara Boulevard in a squat pastel green building. Nothing from the outside prepares the visitor for what’s inside―a clean and vital feel, modern equipment, an excitement among the students. Culinary classes are held in a huge kitchen of stainless steel, students on this day huddled around an instructor at a desk. They have plans for starting a catering business, a restaurant or heading the kitchen at a resort. The feeling is upbeat and contagious. Another classroom is set up as a salon where students are scissoring a mannequin’s hair and rolling perms. Rooms off the salon are meant for bookwork and other training that prepares the students―in this case, mostly high school grads not wishing to pursue college―to pass state certification and find work.
There are 22 instructors teaching the Cape school’s 270 students, says Hawk, a former digital designer with 20 years in Lee County Schools. One former student has just returned to the Cape technical college as a digital design instructor. Adam Hood was a chef but signed up for digital design training, studied under Hawk, finished the program and started a business. “I learned what I needed to learn,” Hood says, “the way it needs to be done.”
Cost and time are key ingredients for those considering post high-school education. While college can be vital, it’s also costly. A Florida resident pays about $200 per credit hour to attend the University of Florida, $700 for a non-resident. The numbers add up quickly. Cape Technical students, on the other hand, pay about $4,200 to finish the 11-month cosmetology program. Considering a top-tier stylist will earn plenty, it’s a bargain, Hawk says.
The catch is that students must attend mostly day classes, which limits those with jobs or families. The Cape school also anticipates bringing construction trades and other such programs to the Santa Barbara campus in the near future.
Written by Craig Garrett, Group Editor-in-Chief for TOTI Media.