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Several local high schoolers planning to join the workforce instead of attending college

Posted at 11:20 AM, Feb 06, 2024

CENTRAL TEXAS — Noah Hernandez is finally putting the finishing touches on his fire pit, after weeks of hard work.

“Really, you just go cut you a couple pieces of metal and start going at it,” Hernandez said.

Noah started welding a year ago, in his AG Class at Moody High School and fell in love with it.

“I’ve always been more of a hands-on learner and with welding everything is just hands-one — you’re always doing something,” he said.

Now, he wants to skip college and go straight to work.

“It starts with getting certified through high school — coming in like another two months, I’ll take a certification test and hopefully enroll in TSTC as soon as possible," Hernandez said.

Noah’s not alone — a recent U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows undergraduate enrollment fell eight percent between 2019 and 2022 — the largest decline on record.

Charley Ayres with Workforce Solutions of Central Texas works with over a dozen local high schools helping students find jobs said he’s seen a rise in students interested in joining the workforce.

“Some of these careers with industry recognized certification students can make a good living and they’re not really required to four years of college to do that,” Ayres said.

Noah says student loans are also a factor.

“I don’t plan to take out any loans — I just want to be self-made,” he said.

Noah's mom and dad didn’t go to college and they both support his decision.

“My mom has been a correctional officer for 22 years now — my dad’s been in the concrete business for about 30," Noah said.

"They’re supportive and they want me to do what I love."

Noah says he plans to continue practicing on his welding skills and is hoping to land a job by the time he graduates.