Technical Programs See Increase in Popularity

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LINN - For Kane Parker, choosing to pursue a technical degree at Linn State Technical College was an easy decision.

"It's a local college," Parker said. "I'd heard a lot of great things about the CAT (Caterpillar) program in specific. And I just figured this is where I needed to be to work on CAT stuff."

Parker is part of an increasingly large movement to technical schools. He is studying heavy equipment technology and is learning to work with Caterpillar equipment and parts. This program, like most at Linn State, is two years long, and graduates receive a certificate or associate degree.

Admissions representative Scott Morefeld acknowledges the increase of students and said it is not a coincedence.

"There are jobs out there for these students in manufacturing, in operations, in being a technician on heavy equipment, you name it," Morefeld said.

With a struggling economy, some students find a shorter, cheaper program with a high job placement rate more appealing than a traditional four-year degree. 

Technical colleges provide students with hand-on experiences and a chance to learn technical skills as part of their education. Parker's program has him splitting his time between the classroom and CAT labs full of engines and machine parts.

"I like the hands on experience we get," Parker said. "We get a lot of internships and get to work kind of in the real world instead of just being in class all day."

Linn State Technical College President Donald Claycomb said he believes these students are setting themselves up for a successful future.

"The United States has a great need right now for technicians, individuals who are prepared with the skill, the knowledge, and the attitude that is needed by industry in the United States," he said.

Claycomb hopes students leave Linn State with a strong work ethic and with strong job readiness skills. He said students at Linn State are highly motivated to learn and their decision not to pursue a bachelor's degree is not a bad thing.

"Some of them are very, very bright," Claycomb said. "It's just that a traditional, more liberal arts-related, baccalaureate-related education does not appeal to them."

That stands true for Parker, who wants to work for Caterpillar when he graduates.

"It's nice to actually do work instead of just learn about it in the books in the classroom," Parker said.