A college education is a wonderful thing and a college degree is a great achievement, but, let’s face it, a college education isn’t for everyone. Another path to an initial adult job or even a lifetime career is offered by public and private vocational and technical schools.

With vocational training, a young person coming out of high school or an older person seeking a career change can find great, purposeful, and satisfying work and make a good living doing it. In addition to that, a vocational education can be completed in a fraction of the time (two years or less) of a traditional four-year college education, at much less cost, and with little chance of lifetime educational debt.

When he was running for Florida governor, current state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam of Bartow used several campaign appearances, interviews with the media, and debate opportunities to focus on vocational education. He promised that, as governor, he would place a much greater emphasis on state voc-ed policies, funding, offerings, and opportunities.

In a column for a Central Florida construction magazine, Putnam wrote this:

“As a state, we’ll need 2 million more jobs over the next decade to accommodate Florida’s population growth. Of the 100 fastest growing jobs in Florida, more than half of them will require more than a high school diploma, but less than a four-year degree. … Recently, I released my ‘Florida Jobs First Agenda,’ which details my plan to modernize career training to include 21st-century skills like coding, advanced manufacturing, and health care. I plan to bring businesses to the table in developing curriculum for vocational and technical education so students will learn the skills they’ll need for real jobs. And I will build on existing apprenticeship programs so more students can ‘earn while they learn’ a modern-day trade.”

According to a recent survey of 2,000 adults by the American Staffing Association Workforce Monitor, about seven in 10 U.S. adults said that learning a specific trade is better for finding a job than a bachelor’s degree and that college degrees aren’t worth as much as they used to be.

In Polk County, the public school system has two excellent centers for vocational training. Once called vocational-technical schools and later called career centers, the schools are now called Traviss Technical College, in Lakeland, and Ridge Technical College, in Winter Haven. Combined, the colleges offer high-quality and relevant training through at least 32 programs, ranging from Administrative Office Specialist to Welding Technology.

Here at Tucker Paving, Inc., a Polk County-based company deeply involved in the regional construction industry, the Traviss and Ridge programs that really pique our interest include:

  • Air Conditioning, Refrigeration and Heating Technology
  • Construction
  • Commercial Driving
  • Diesel Systems Technician
  • Digital Designs
  • Drafting
  • Electricity
  • Energy Technician
  • Welding Technology

Young people interested in a construction career — the booming industry greatly needs well-trained workers — and already-working people thinking about switching to construction would be well served to check out the program offerings at Traviss and Ridge. You can explore at: