JEFFERSON TOWNSHIP — A record number of students visited the Ashtabula County Technical & Career campus this week to check out the Career Technical Exploration program.

Normally the CTE program sees around 30 freshman students from schools across the county, but this year that number more than quadrupled with 126 students attending.

Freshmen students considering attending A-Tech as sophomores come to the campus to learn about the CTE Program, a program they can sign up to be a part of as sophomores which provides a taste of the various programs the campus has to offer. As juniors the students then choose a technical or career area to focus on through their senior year.

Of all of the A-Tech career and technical programs for high school students, only two — graphic design and welding — have slower than average job outlooks over the next 10 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

All other career and technical programs offered at the campus have job outlooks that are either expected to have a steady growth or greater than average growth over the next 10 years, and many have median hourly rates of $20 or greater. 

Scott Wludyga, secondary administrator, said he thinks the biggest reason for the greater number of area students coming to the campus to check out the CTE program was from a tremendous amount of interest on the part of parents.

“The exciting thing about the career technical and exploration program is that it really gives students a taste of the areas they can study at A-Tech,” he said. “It really helps students get an idea of what they might want to continue to study as juniors.”

The prospect of receiving an education at the high school level that could result in a secure and well-paying job upon graduation might also be a factor in the number of students who came this year, Wludyga said.

“People are beginning to see that A-Tech is not one path and it is an opportunity to build,” Wludyga said. “Just because you enroll in a career technical program doesn’t mean you won’t go on to college. We see students who graduate and go on to college, and we see students who graduate, get great jobs and come back to stack their skills in our adult programs.”

Former A-Tech student Dustin Demattia, 22, is an example of someone who found success through a vocational path. Demattia, a machinist for Mechanical Dynamics and Analysis in Euclid, got a job straight out of high school after graduating in 2016 making $13 an hour.

That hourly rate might not sound like a whole lot, but over the next several years Dematia’s rate has increased by more than 100 percent to $27 an hour. It isn’t unrealistic for machinists to make $70,000 to $80,000 annually because plenty of overtime is available, he said.

Demattia’s path to a solid job came from A-Tech where he studied in the Precision Machining lab. He added that the real kicker is he never went looking for a job — his company came to A-Tech looking for promising students and he was offered work with them.

“Not a lot of kids want to do trades anymore,” he said. “But there are really so many jobs out there for every single program at A-Tech.”

Since graduating Demattia said he has returned to A-Tech to speak with students, and also on behalf of his company to search for other promising students on behalf of his company. Most machining companies around the country now have starting ranges of $17-$20 an hour, he said.

Yet Demattia was quick to point out that the education he received depended on the work he put into it. 

“If you go to A-Tech you’ve got to listen to your lab teacher,” he said. “If you’re not willing to work and want to learn then why should the teacher teach you? You’ve got to be motivated.”

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