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Thriving job market attracts students to training for trades

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College of The Albemarle welding student Jai Registe works in the welding lab on the main campus in Elizabeth City.

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A strong job market and the opportunity to obtain credentials in one year of community college study are drawing increasing numbers of students to training programs in trades.

College of The Albemarle reports that enrollment has been strong in trade programs such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) and welding over the last few years. On occasion those programs have been at capacity. School officials also have noted an increased demand for workers in some skilled trades and are working to recruit students to fill those jobs.

In addition, Currituck Board of Education Chairman Bill Dobney has been an advocate for strengthening high school programs in construction-related trades. Dobney has noted the significant amount of construction going on now in Currituck and also has pointed to projections that call for even more construction of new homes in the years ahead. He emphasized that the trade jobs are good-paying jobs and says local students need the opportunity to train for those jobs. 

COA is seeing a healthy interest in training for trades.

Mike Lopez, welding instructor at COA, said enrollment is strong in that program. In fact, last fall he started the semester with all classes full and a waiting list, he said.

As Lopez looks toward the fall semester this year he already has about a third of the available slots filled.

Part of the good news about the program from Lopez’s perspective is that graduates are getting jobs in the area. While many go to Newsport News, Va., to work in shipbuilding, and some work at Sumitomo Drive Technologies in Chesapeake, Va., others are landing jobs at Elizabeth City with companies such as Hockmeyer and Hoffler Flow.

Nearly all the welding graduates are finding work either in northeastern North Carolina or in southeastern Virginia. Among them, Jai Registe, 19, took carpentry at Pasquotank High School where his instructor talked to him about career opportunities in welding. That led to training in welding, which Registe has embraced.

“It’s like an art,” said Registe, a Jersey City, N.J., native, who has been in Elizabeth City since sixth grade. He recently interviewed for a job at the shipyard in Newport News.

Hugh Rogers, the instructor in electrical systems technology at COA, said enrollment in the program has been good.

One of the current students in the electrical program, Owen Blizzard, said that while he was in high school he spent a lot of time working on his truck and became fascinated with the truck’s electrical systems. He knew how to do a lot of the work that needed to be done on the truck but realized he didn’t fully understand how the electrical parts worked.

Blizzard, 21, who lives in Camden and graduated from Camden County High School, became so interested in the electrical systems on the vehicle that he decided to study electrical systems at COA. He said he would like to work either in this area or nearby in Virginia.

On a recent day Blizzard was removing electrical wiring assemblies from a classroom ceiling at COA. He explained that they were being moved to another room,

“We’re taking everything down to start over,” Blizzard said.

Rogers said students study residential systems during the fall semester and commercial systems in the spring. The college also offers courses in renewable energy systems such as solar and wind generation.

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