As millions of Americans struggle with student debt, Charlotte Technical College, or CTC, is graduating 17- and 18-year-old students who are free of burdening college student loans and go on to earn living wages at their first jobs out of school.
Part of the Charlotte County Public Schools system, the technical college works to have its students obtain employment before their graduation, CTC Director Cynthia Gulsby said.
In a lot of cases, employment includes jobs that are in high demand nationally and in Florida, including aviation airframe and powerplant mechanics, computer systems/information technology/cybersecurity, digital design/web design and health science professions.
The 23 programs offered at CTC have tuition ranges for Florida residents from $648 to $7,461. But the tuition for nonresidents is higher, ranging from $1,756 for automotive service technology II AC/heating to $15,808 for the practical nursing program.
The school offers both high school and adult programs. Some older students have gone back to earn skills for a second career.
While still in high school, students are dual enrolled and graduate high school with their high school diploma and a Certificate of Completion from one of CTC’s programs.
Median annual salaries listed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics vary by profession.
Of CTC programs, those going into the IT support field earn a median annual salary of $71,350. Other fields earning median annual salaries of more than $50,000 include aviation airframe and powerplant mechanics ($69,470), electricians ($63,310), digital graphic design ($59,970), practical nursing ($59,090), culinary arts and hospitality ($56,920), cyber security ($55,510) and firefighter/EMT ($55,290).
CTC offers a heating, ventilation and air conditioning program that produces graduates who earn a national median wage of $54,690. But local HVAC companies are known to pay higher wages, with several firms in Southwest Florida offering 401(k) plans and heath care benefits.
A spokesperson for Titanz Plumbing and Air Conditioning in Port Charlotte said recent graduates from HVAC programs are earning between $60,000 to $70,000 in addition to benefits.
Bill Swanson, whose father founded Tri-County Air Conditioning in Venice, helped to relaunch the HVAC program at CTC. He said lead installers can earn $75,000 to $80,000 as their career progresses.
Many of CTC’s industry partners in a multitude of fields contact the school “looking to hire our graduates,” Gulsby said. A career placement specialist works with all of CTC’s students to assist in preparing them for employment after graduation.
CTC is a clock hours school, meaning each program has a set number of hours that each student is required to participate in to be identified as a program completer, Gulsby said.
Most of the programs can be completed within a year or less. Night classes are usually completed within 18 months.
Currently, the school has 289 postsecondary/adult students in a variety of career certificate programs. There are approximately 550 high school students who are dual enrolled.
Floridashines.org lists the top 100 jobs in the state and their predicted percentage of growth for the future. Health care, computer technology and the skilled trades are well-represented on that list.
According to FloridaShines, health care and construction are projected to be the hottest jobs in the state during the next seven years. There are expected to be 120,000 job openings in the construction industry, ranging from cement masons to plumbers to tile installers to roofers.
The health care industry will have more than 67,000 job openings for medical assistants and nearly 112,000 nurses.
Software developers, management analysts and accountants also will be in high demand.