Students trade their pencil for a tool belt at first Trades Day

Tulare County Office of Education hosts Trades Day that offers high school students hands-on experience in trade careers on Sept. 27

TULARE COUNTY – With a growing number of students preferring hard hats and tool belts over degrees, the Tulare County Office of Education and the Tulare-Kings College and Career Collaborative plan to host its inaugural “trades day.”

As the county’s career interests are pointing toward trades, Tulare County Office of Education (TCOE) and Tulare-Kings College and Career Collaborative are hosting a trades day where students can learn about local companies and careers that do not require a college degree. The event is open to high school students affiliated with an organization or school. This event comes amid a climb in farming, construction and other trade employment rates within Tulare County, according to the Workforce Investment Board of Tulare County

Shelsy Hutchison, the TCOE College & Career Engagement Specialist, stated that the county office hopes to promote all career paths to students and give them hands-on experience.

“I think college has been a push, and not just from a county office perspective, but the world,” Hutchison   said. “With the economy that we’re in, we’re trying to help bring this to the light of students that if college isn’t for you, these are the types of careers that can be for you.”

The county is not the only area where trade work is rising. The Employment Development Department projects that trades, transportation and utilities employment will surpass every other sector of employment within California, even healthcare and business. 

With only 14.7% of individuals in Tulare County holding their Bachelor’s Degree or higher, which is a trend seen nationally in the shift in college enrollment and retention. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center found that college enrollment was down by 7.6% since last spring, roughly 1.3 million students nationally.

TCOE began the idea of trades day to inform students of technical and trades careers that can be attained with little to no schooling, in order to accommodate the growing notion that college is not as necessary as previously believed. This comes at a time where teen interest in higher education has dropped from 71% to 48% since 2020, according to the ECMC Group, a nonprofit corporation that aids students in educational guidance and resources.

“You can be your own entrepreneur, create your own hours, [we are] just trying to build that awareness,” Hutchinson said. “College and career exploration right now is at the forefront of everything we do in education. So this is a great way to show them all of those opportunities.”

Trades day will be held at the Porterville Fairgrounds on Sept. 27 at 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and is still seeking more businesses to participate in the career exploration event.

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