Applied trades vs 4 year liberal arts degree, blah blah blah. But not today. THIS post from Inside Higher Education really grabbed my attention this morning. Seems that this community college in Arizona can’t find an auto tech teacher, and you won’t believe WHY.
“Coconino Community College freezes its automotive technology program after only a year because of an unsuccessful search for an instructor, an increasingly common plight for career and technical education fields… Nate Southerland, provost of Coconino Community College, said the college started the automotive technology program in response to local workforce needs. The college offered four automotive technology classes last fall and five courses in the spring, serving 46 students. A local Honda dealership let the program use its facilities at night…”
You should know that 46 students in any one program is considered strong enrollment numbers, especially at the community college level. There are programs that limp along with fewer than a dozen students for years. So, beyond there being a strong interest among students, numbers like those indicate the potential for a very strong and sustainable automotive program. So what’s the problem?
In the town, autotechs earn average about $100,000 per year. Community college part time teachers (called adjuncts) are paid about $3,500 per course, it’s clear why they can’t fill those (that challenge is across all disciplines) but the full time position was offered at $80,000. The college attempted to hire each of the 4 applicants, and each declined the offer.
“Community colleges across the country are having similar issues recruiting professors, particularly in career and technical education fields such as nursing, computer programming and automotive technology, where potential instructors can often find better pay outside academia…Wendy Brill-Wynkoop, president of the Faculty Association of the California Community Colleges, said institutions also sometimes struggle to find career and technical education instructors because of outdated minimum degree requirements that are higher than industry standards. She also finds technical fields have less of a “consistent pipeline” to professor roles, unlike liberal arts programs that have pools of graduate students waiting to fill teaching positions.”
Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner! College have ZERO issues filling the teaching positions for math, English, psychology, music, etc. because there is a “consistent pipeline” of “graduate” students waiting to fill teaching positions. This is a huge red flag parents! This means that after a liberal arts bachelor’s degree, the students return to college for a graduate degree (masters/doctorate) presumably because there isn’t a job waiting for them at the end of their BA in History. So, they double-down and get their master’s, hoping that they will THEN be a hot commodity worthy of a high paying job. And that’s why there is a pipeline. A steady stream of over-educated and underemployed candidates stepping over each other to try and grab a $3,500 teaching job teaching a subject that perpetually funnels more students into $3,500 teaching jobs. All the while, you can’t lure an auto mechanic, IT tech, or nurse out of the field because they wouldn’t dream of taking a pay cut to make only $80,000 per year.
So, follow the money: Industry pays well enough that we have fewer workers willing to leave the industry to teach, which means fewer seats in the classroom open to train students/future workforce, thus fewer qualified workers entering these trades which leads to industry willing to pay more to recruit qualified workforce. This is an exciting time for the trades. Our blue-collar teens are about to see income levels off the charts.