Growing job demand in San Antonio results in rise of vocational school students

By Sarah Acosta - Reporter, Lee Carpio - Photojournalist

SAN ANTONIO - Taking the vocational school route over the traditional four-year university route may give students an edge in certain career fields.

Administrators at St. Philip's College said they can't get students into the workforce fast enough to keep up with industry demand

Angela Barclay, a St. Philip’s College nursing student, said she took the vocational route over a four-year school because she needed a plan to earn money quickly.

“I'm seasoned, so I don't have time for four years,” said Barclay.

Randall Dawson, the vice president for academic success at St. Philip's College, says the school is seeing more students like Barclay entering all of their almost 70 programs. 

According to Dawson, St. Philip's has awarded more certificates and degrees between the past 3-5 years than ever before.  

He credits the fast-growing job and labor market in San Antonio, as it is the seventh largest city in the U.S.. Dawson believes jobs in construction and trades are huge right now.

“They need welders, they need plumbers, they need HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning), they need concrete specialists. All these things are bringing students to us,” he said.

Because of that need, the college is marketing more toward local high school students. St. Philip's also offers dual credit opportunities within 45 surrounding school districts .

One of the areas that is in great need for workers is the information technology and cybersecurity field. 

“In the state of Texas, there are 1,900 jobs that are unfilled specifically because of IT skills,” said Rick Lopez, IT program director of the cybersecurity program at St Philip's College 

According to Lopez, the benefit of a two-year school like St. Philip's as oppose to a four-year school is the more concentrated curriculum that helps students to quickly enter into the workforce.

Lopez believes that the extended curriculum of a 4-year program creates a void in the job market. 

Another benefit of taking the vocational route is that it saves money.

According to Dawson, going to a two-year school like St Philip's College can save students thousands in tuition. 

Furthermore he also said  the average salary for students after two years of their programs range from $40,000 to $50,000 a year.

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