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5/4/2003

Skilled workers in demand

By Tony Kindlespire
The Daily Times-Call

Vocational education offers tremendous potential for those who do not want to attend or are unable to attend a traditional four-year university.

For those who will seek more education, earning a certification or “learning the basics” in a particular field through vocational education can lead to entry-level employment in that field, while a further degree is being pursued.

Here is what the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook has to say about some of the careers that can be pursued through Front Range Community College, the Career Development Center and the Boulder Technical Education Center.

Auto Mechanics

This is a field that has had amazing advances in technology. Machines used to diagnose cars were the size of refrigerators only a decade ago. Now, they can fit in the palm of your hand.

“The standards in the industry are getting so high,” said Rick Ward, an instructor in the CDC’s automotive technology program.

The Labor Department calls the outlook for automotive service technicians and mechanics “very good.” Knowledge of computers, electronics and mathematics are all necessary to be a success in the field.

“About 18 percent of service technicians were self-employed,” according to the OOH.

“To be honest with you, the independent shop is where the money is in this industry.”

Median hourly earnings of automotive service technicians and mechanics, including commission, were $13.70 in 2000, according to the OOH. The highest 10 percent of those in the field earned nearly $24 an hour.

Carpenters

The OOH reports that there were about 1.2 million carpenters in the United States in 2000. As such, it is the largest group of building trades workers.

The Department of Labor calls job prospects for carpenters “excellent” through 2010, “largely due to the numerous openings arising each year from experienced carpenters who leave this large occupation each year. In addition, many potential workers may prefer work that is less strenuous and that has more comfortable working conditions.”

Because of the relatively high wages associated with carpentry and other affiliated professions, “building trades is starting to pick back up again” in terms of enrollment, according to Bill Blick, CDC principal.

Median hourly earnings for carpenters in 2000 were $15.69.

Cartographers

Engineering, forestry and geography are three areas that employ cartographers.

While they typically have a bachelor’s degree, it is possible to break into an entry-level position by earning a certification in Geographic Information Systems from Front Range Community College, according to Pat Schwarz, the GIS coordinator for FRCC’s Boulder County campuses.

Median annual earnings of cartographers and photogrammetrists were $39,410 in 2000, according to the OOH. The highest 10 percent earned nearly $65,000.

Dental Assistants

The OOH calls the job outlook for dental assistants “good.”

“Employment is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2010,” according to the OOH.

The handbook points out that older dentists are less likely to employ assistants, while younger dentists are likely to employ one or more.

The OOH reports that the median hourly earnings of dental assistants were $12.49 in 2000.

Welders

The OOH calls the job prospects for welders “excellent.”

Training can range from the on-the-job variety to several years of combined school and OTJ training.

CDC’s welding trades program prepares students for employment in any of a number of welding jobs.

According to the OOH, median hourly earnings of welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers were $13.13 in 2000.