ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – The Development Corporation of Abilene(DCOA) matched a $13,000 donation from the Wylie ISD Education Foundation, for a grand total of $26,000, all in an effort to give students a head start in their careers through career technical education (CTE) programs.

The funds will go towards Wylie High School’s new construction and electrical technology pathway. Chad Widder, Construction and Electrical Technology educator, shared that as the U.S. labor shortage continues, Abilene has been impacted as well.

“We’ve been pushing so long in education for these kids to get a four-year college degree and there’s a lot of kids don’t need that,” Widder stated.

He teaches students that they don’t necessarily need a four-year degree to be successful.

“They were able to turn a switch on and a light bulb will light up and you see that same type thing in their eyes, like ‘Hey I did that. I made that work,'” added Widder.

The NEXT University (NEXTU) program is a career-development program that began at Wylie ISD began last year in partnership with the DCOA. Misty Mayo, President of the Development Corporation of Abilene, said they created the NEXTU program at Wylie ISD to help build the future of the Key City by helping create and maintain jobs in high-demand trade industries.

“We need workers and programs. This program at Wylie ISD is helping to fill those gaps and fill the needs that Abilene has for Abilene’s future,” Mayo expressed.

She added that funding CTE programs will benefit Abilene’s economy in the long run.

“When you give a student the opportunity to learn, you’re creating a future for your community,” Mayo expressed.

With the funds, Widder said they will be able to give students more hands-on opportunities.

“They’re basically going to get us some very nice equipment for doing woodworking, framing and construction, electrical tools,” Widder shared.

Widder said students will graduate ready to work in the industry. However, if the student doesn’t want to follow the construction and electrical path, they can apply the skills obtained in other industries too.