Abilene tchnical students set sights on future careers

ABILENE, Texas (KTAB) - The Development Corporation of Abilene is joining in the nationwide celebration of career and technical education with CTE Month.  KTAB spoke with some of the students who are hard at work getting their careers in place - sometimes before they even graduate high school.

Jakare Thompson is a high school senior studying HVAC. Just two years ago, he didn't know anything about the field, but today, he's a pro. "I feel empowered in a way." Thompson says. He admits that it's a learning process, but adds, "You don't know a lot of the words until you open up a book and try."

That's the kind of success story that Career and Technical Education students have been going through in Abilene, as they get a head start on their career.

Lauren Anderson is a career development coach who works with these students. She explains what a huge leap forward the training can represent: "They are able to start jobs at $15 an hour; double minimum wage. That's a huge opportunity for them and their families to make sustainable change."

Maisha Sempe is in his first year of CTE, realizing that welding was a better fit for him than aviation. He says,"If you get a job, that's the rest of your life. Having a job, it's part of the life. If you don't have a job, you don't have life."

The DCOA helps foster that growth in other students with scholarships, helping to put bright futures within reach for many students. Director of Growth Development with the Abilene Industrial Foundation Shea Hopkins says that there's room for older students, too.

"Let's say that you're 20 years old, you graduated last year, and you get into the workforce, and you realize you need a skill set." Hopkins says, "We'd love to help those students as well. Those scholarships are available to them."

With this training, skilled labor positions can be refilled, as the current workforce begins planning for retirement. Rick Marks has led classes on HVAC, and has seen the new talent coming up. He says that "Most of the people are getting retirement age, and most of them aren't coming back."

These students are proving to be quick studies. As they prepare to move into the workplace, Marks says, "This just affords us the opportunity to get them younger, train them, and get them in the workforce to fulfill that need."

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