High School Seniors & Trade School Opportunities Podcast
Jay Rasmussen, Senior Vice President of Admissions at Lincoln Tech: There’s a lot of differences between the traditional education route and the career technical training route. They both serve their own purposes for the correct student, but, number one, we're going to be a shorter program.
Rob Paganini, President of Lincoln Tech’s Mahwah, New Jersey Campus: The first time we made them, the astronaut actually came to our school with the locker that we supplied the latch for. All of our students signed it, and then they shot it off into space.
Julian Cawthon, Computerized Manufacturing Professional and Lincoln Tech Graduate: A position where you're actually able to advance your career, having the training, having the ability to program the CNC machines, the ability to read blueprints you can advance in your career so much faster.
Host: Welcome to the official podcast of Lincoln Tech. Lincoln Tech's mission is to provide superior education and training to our students for in-demand careers in a supportive, accessible learning environment, transforming students’ lives and adding value to their communities. And Lincoln's promise to our students is simple: we will work tirelessly to help you succeed on the road to new career opportunities. On this episode, we'll discuss the post-High School training program and focus on why this is a good time of year for high school students, especially seniors, to start looking into career training schools post-graduation.
Rasmussen: My name is Jay Rasmussen. I'm the senior vice president of admissions with Lincoln Tech.
Host: Jay, can give us a rough percentage of high school students that come to Lincoln Tech straight from high school?
Rasmussen: That's a great question. So roughly about 20% of our students come directly from high school and about 50% of our students are under the age of 21. So a lot of these students will take different routes in order to get to the same place. Some of them take some time off. Others try out a traditional college and still others enter the workforce. Many of these students, though, depending on their path and their initial direction, they find out it’s not exactly what they expected it to be and to decide to look for some relevant hands on skills, which Lincoln Tech provides for specific career fields. And they end up coming to us. The majority of them will find us within that 3 to 4 year period after graduating high school.
Host: How does a Lincoln Tech experience compare to a typical college experience?
Rasmussen: There's a lot of differences between the traditional education route and the career technical training route. They both serve their own purposes for the correct student. But, number one, we're going to be a shorter program. Most of our programs can typically be completed within about a 12 month window. The programs are also a more direct route to the career field because you're in and out and you get to go to work. The last major difference that we have is that it is typically less debt for our students to complete our program. The student that takes a four year credential, for instance, will have four years of tuition that they have to pay back. In our instance, it's a one year tuition. Typically it's somewhere between 25-30% or so, 30% of what [an average 4-year college degree cost] may be.
Paganini: I'm Rob Paganini. I'm the campus president for Lincoln Technical Institute in Mahwah, New Jersey.
Host: Rob, can you tell us more about how the high school share program works?
Paganini: We've been seeing a pretty good decline in the skilled trades at the high school level, so we wanted to do something to afford high school students the availability to take automotive courses. We have a share program where high school juniors or high school seniors have the ability to come to our school for 2.5 hours a day, five days a week, and they will take three classes per year. And they are the same exact classes we teach to our adult learners. Now these students are segregated, so they are not mixed in with our adult learners. It is only our high school students with a specified instructor for them only. And again, once they have completed the courses they will matriculate into our adult program if they so choose, to continue their education here.
Host: I understand the high school students coming here are doing something extremely cool in the computerized manufacturing program – did I hear correctly, that some of their prior work is now in orbit on the International Space station?
Paganini: In our advanced manufacturing with robotics program, we make flight ready hardware for the International Space Station. Our students are contracted out by NASA. NASA will show up to our campus twice a year, sign up all of our students as independent contractors so that we can make parts for the International Space Station. Currently we are working on - well, let me back up a second – we first started out by making the latches that hold the experimental lockers closed. The first time we made them, the astronaut actually came to our school with the locker that we supplied the latch for. All of our students signed it, and then they shot it off into space, which was pretty cool.
Host: That’s very cool. What else are these high school students doing?
Paganini: They next asked us to make handles for the International Space Station hallways. The astronaut said the hallways are very long. They’ve got nothing to grab on to while they're walking.
Host: In zero gravity, I can see how that could be a challenge.
Paganini: So they asked us to make handles. Obviously we didn't go to space, but they did, and they put the handles on the hallway so that they have something to grab on to while they're walking. And now we're making a bracket for the antennas at the space station. So we're currently in the process of that. This new project is in its infant stages, but our partnership with NASA is extremely strong and we're pretty proud of that. Pretty good for our students to put on their resume that they made flight-ready hardware for the International Space Station.
Host: So Lincoln Tech has ties to NASA.
Paganini: The program is extremely robust. We're using the top of the line equipment, which is why NASA is confident enough in us to make this flight ready hardware. Obviously, NASA is putting our material through a bunch of tests to make sure it meets their stringent specifications, and they won't use anything unless it is 100% approved by NASA. But to date, we've had no issues.
Cawthon: Hi, my name is Julian and I graduated from Lincoln Tech in 2015 from the CNC program, the manufacturing program. I got good experience pretty early. It's pretty easy to find CNC jobs, especially in the DFW area. I started working for a large aerospace company, worked there for a couple of years and have gotten some good experience since then. Different fields, worked in medical devices, worked for SpaceX for a little while, and also work for a defense company. A lot of different paths there that you can take as far as manufacturing goes, a lot of different fields, industries that they service.
Host: Julian, tell us why you chose Lincoln Tech after high school.
Cawthon: I was on the fence as far as what career path I wanted to take, going to university or potentially the Air Force. And those were kind of the two options that I was like, okay, I'm going to do one of these two things. A Lincoln recruiter came to my high school. She explained the whole thing and said, hey, we're doing an open house over here at the Grand Prairie campus in a few weeks.
Host: What was that Open House like?
Cawthon: They had scholarship testing at the same time because there's some aptitude testing and kind of different paths you can take for scholarships. I went to the Open house at the Grand Prairie Campus and looked around, saw some pretty neat equipment and stuff. After doing the scholarship information, I actually got a pretty generous scholarship from Lincoln Tech and that was very helpful in my decision as far as what I wanted to do with the career training. The scholarship definitely made my choice pretty easy as far as what I wanted to do.
Host: What was your decision making process to go to Lincoln Tech?
Cawthon: I was pretty certain that I was going to go to the Air Force. I was already talking to recruiters and I was pretty much going to just go in for a couple of years and that way I could then go to a university afterwards. I'm definitely pretty happy now in hindsight, not doing that and choosing the trade school route instead of the Air Force route, because I was able to jump in have meaningful experience. That is what a lot of employers want and able to get a job where right at the gate I was making very decent money.
Host: And computerized manufacturing – is that the kind of field where you’re making good money just walking into a shop, or did you need that hands-on experience first?
Cawthon: It’s possible to maybe get your foot in the door with a CNC shop or something like that, but to get to the place where you're actually in a meaningful position - not that an entry-level position is not meaningful, but to get into a position where you're actually able to advance your career – having the training, having the ability to program the CNC machines, the ability to read blueprints, you can advance in your career so much faster having that experience. It probably would take you ten years to get somewhere with no experience, with no on the job training, that it would take you two years with the skill trade training back to you.
Host: Let’s turn back to Jay Rasmussen, Lincoln Tech’s Senior Vice President of Admissions. Jay, are you finding students are going to Lincoln Tech just because college is so expensive?
Rasmussen: My advice to students about what they should do with their future is to look for the best education they can get for what they're looking to do. You know, most of our employers are looking for students that have hands-on skills that directly relate to the career that they're going to perform. And so traditionally, you'll be told, go to this school or go to that school. Go there because this my grandfather went there, etcetera. Those are never really good plans.
Host: Can you elaborate on that?
Rasmussen: It’s like saying, well, let me go to school based on cost. Although cost is a factor and it should be considered when you're looking at your career, the more important factor that you should weigh is, is what is the quality of the education that I'm going to receive while I'm in school? For us [at Lincoln Tech], the most important part of our job is to find students a career once they complete our program. We're graded based on the ability for us to produce a student that has the proper skill set in order to enter the workforce.
Host: What are the biggest differences between a four-year college and Lincoln Tech?
Rasmussen: We provide a different set of credentials. Like I said before, we're geared for your career education. So we're going to look for credentials that suit that field specifically, whether it's nursing, automotive, welding, etcetera. Our programs vary in the credentials that we offer. We can offer and you can receive anything from an Associate's degree, in automotive science, to an approved and recognized certification within the industry that you're looking at. All of our credentials are industry driven. We attempt to provide the proper credential so that a student has the best opportunity for entry into the workforce. You know, your starting point will often determine where your ending point is, and the higher you can get in there, the further you can get into that higher starting point, the better for you and the better success is for you and your future.
Host: Rob Paganini is the President of Lincoln Tech’s Mahwah, New Jersey campus – where there five different career paths students can train in. Rob, what are some of the other career paths that students can take a look at?
Paganini: As a company, we have a plethora of skilled trades that we offer: automotive repair, diesel repair, collision, health care, IT, culinary arts. Here at Mahwah, we have five specific programs: automotive repair, HVAC, both residential and commercial. We have an electrical program that teaches high voltage and low voltage electric. Our advanced manufacturing with robotics program, which we just discussed, includes 3D printing and AutoCAD. And then our last program is welding.
Host: What are the requirements for potential students to get into the post-high school training program?
Paganini: They have to have a high school diploma or GED, then they have to come down and meet with us. We have to make sure that they're a good fit for Lincoln Tech and that Lincoln Tech is a good fit for them. This is a partnership between us and our students. We interview the student and then my admissions team has to recommend their student for the program of study.
Host: What kinds of things are you looking or listening for in that interview?
Paganini: We have to make sure that that student is committed because we want a successful graduate. So that's our admissions team's determination. And then we have them do a learner assessment: a questionnaire that they just have to put out there, that they can set goals for themselves, that they're committed to this school. We want them to really think about their commitment to Lincoln Tech and what it's going to take to be successful here.
Host: So you don't need the SAT or the act?
Paganini: No, sir. There is no prerequisite test to get into our school.
Host: Julian Cawthon, who graduated from a Lincoln Tech campus in Texas, is now a Senior Metrologist at a third-party inspection agency, where he’s responsible for inspected manufactured parts for safety and quality. Julian, how many years have you saved yourself in career advancement by going to Lincoln Tech?
Cawthon: To even get the opportunity to program CNC machines, you have to be a very high caliber employee within an organization to even get the opportunity for them to consider training you. You basically are skipping the entire process of a company hiring you, putting you on the floor for years, vetting you, and then eventually maybe training you. At Lincoln I did all of that within nine months and came out already having the skills to be a programmer and to move into that position that a lot of machinists desire right out the gate. And that doesn't necessarily mean that you're going to get that job right out the gate, but just having the experience and an employer knowing that, okay, this person does have skills that we can use and we can leverage, we'll definitely give them a much higher chance of choosing you to move into one of those more significant roles in a machine shop.
Host: Can you explain more of what you do in your career?
Cawthon: A few years ago, I did pivot from being on the actual manufacturing side to being in the quality side. So I work in CMM programming, which is coordinate measuring machine programming; essentially it's a very adjacent field, but basically those parts that are manufactured on the CNC machines then have to go into quality control and be inspected. So I programmed the machines that inspect the parts now.
Host: Do you enjoy your job? Cawthon: I do. I enjoy my job. I work in a clean room now, essentially. Every machine shop is probably going to have a CMM, a coordinate measuring machine, because it is the next step that a machine shop has to take to get better contracts.
Host: And back to Jay Rasmussen - what's a good time to look into this program?
Rasmussen: My advice to students would be to pick a five-year window, choose what you want to do over the next five years and be great at it. When it comes to high school students, it's never too early to start looking into your future career options and opportunities because you can wait too long and then you're reacting based on the environment around you. Now look, some just have delayed their choice or where they're going or are they attending close to home or are they going to travel? My advice is to start looking as a freshman and a sophomore in high school, at least exploring career opportunities out there. What you may be interested, what you might not be interested in, to narrow down that list to get a good start.
Host: Sound advice for students of any age, really.
Rasmussen: As you progress within your years, you need to pick a direction. You know, many of us will start off and we find out that this may not be the perfect direction for us and we change our direction from that point. But it's important to find a direction that one you enjoy and you like because the most successful people out there are passionate about what they do, meaning they love what they do. And there's a difference between someone who loves what they do and the person that goes to work.
Host: That’s a really interesting point, Jay.
Rasmussen: Those that are passionate about it make it great, and they perform at great levels and they'll be highly successful individuals. My suggestion is start looking early. It's never too early to start looking because you may change your mind at a later time and then follow something that you truly love to do because you'll be more successful for that. 00:15:33 Host: Any final thoughts?
Rasmussen: The biggest point I would make to anyone looking for a career, is that there are pathways for everyone and you know, you can choose whatever pathway suits you. Remember, it's not a permanent pathway. Life will change. You will change, your direction may change. Your interests may change. Opportunities may present themselves that weren't there before. And so I always tell everyone, you know, try to plan your five years out. Look to be successful within those five years. Work hard, do a good job, try to be great at what you do, find what you love to do, be passionate about it, and then be prepared. When the time comes to pivot and change. It's okay. Nothing's permanent. Nothing's forever in the working world, and you may find yourself in a better position. So chase after your career and be the best at it and ultimately you will be rewarded for those efforts.
Host: Rob, are there grants, scholarships or financial aid available at Lincoln Tech?
Paganini: We have specific scholarships that are afforded to us through Lincoln Tech. We have outside scholarship programs that are afforded us through specific towns, through specific organizations that want to support a specific trade. We will reach out to third party organizations to provide scholarships. Lincoln Tech provides grants for students that qualify for that. And obviously, we have a whole financial aid team that helps every enrolling student with how they are going to best pay for their schooling while they're here.
Host: Julian, would you recommend this program?
Cawthon: I would definitely recommend for the person that does not enjoy school, that does not maybe, maybe not even doesn't necessarily enjoy school, but for the person that doesn't have the opportunities to go to a four-year university. School is so expensive now, some schools are $50,000 a year, which is pretty just ludicrous. I definitely recommend it for people. You can go out and in a lot of cases, you can probably go and make more than your parents, right out the gate for the average person. So I would definitely recommend it as far as opportunities while I was at the school.
Host: Did Lincoln Tech help connect you with those opportunities?
Cawthon: I did do some interviews at Lincoln Tech. They had Career Days where employers came in and they would interview a large group of students, particularly the larger machine shops that have a lot of roles to fill. They would come in and interview many, many students and basically they would have their pick of who they wanted.
Host: How about your classmates – did they have the same kinds of luck you had in securing interviews and eventually getting job offers?
Cawthon: I think my class was 16 students, and I think of the 16 students there, probably 12 of us were placed in jobs where Lincoln Tech was actually the one that facilitated us meeting the employer. The job that I got right out of trade school was a job that was facilitated by Lincoln Tech. The HR person and the shop manager actually came to the school, interviewed us and then offered a large number of students jobs. I think ten of us started working there right out the gate.
Host: You had help from Lincoln Tech landing your job so you didn't have to be hassled with sending out resumes and pounding the pavement.
Cawthon: Definitely got a lot of opportunities through Lincoln Tech, but also through that job that Lincoln Tech facilitated. I got a lot of opportunities there that I said would have been a little bit harder otherwise. I don't think I could have gotten my foot in the door with a large machine shop like that with zero experience maybe sweeping the floors.
Host: Any final thoughts, Julian, on the post-high school training program?
Cawthon: I think the last words would be you're going to get as much out of a program that you put into it. So whenever you go there, just really soak it in, take the time, read the book, listen to your teachers, because that information is very valuable and they have teachers set up that are going to be super helpful as far as developing your skills and getting you to the next step that will actually make you a meaningful employee that your employer will look at and say, We need to give this guy more opportunities. So the more information that you can soak in while you're at the program, the better because that's going to translate into your ability to be successful on your job.
Host: We’ve heard some pretty valuable perspectives today about the paths high school students can take after they graduate. Does Lincoln Tech sound like a fit for you? To get more information, schedule a visit, talk to a counselor or the career services team, visit Lincoln Tech. Edu.