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High School Graduates Have Employment Options

By Jeff McKeown

As sure as June rolls around and a new crop of high school graduates hit the bricks, many decide that getting a job–not college–will be their next step.

For those young men and women, the good news is that there are many excellent careers available to them that do NOT require a college degree. Many of the better paying jobs that are not tied to a college diploma, do however, require on-the-job training or sometimes an apprenticeship.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists many jobs that pay more than $60,000 annually, among the top 40 are: transportation, storage, and distribution managers; electrical and electronics engineering technicians; computer network support specialists; insurance claims adjusters, examiners, and investigators; web developers; and electrical power-line installers and repairers just to name a few.

Among the biggest demand in our area is for computer numerically controlled (CNC) programmers and operators. Local training is available and educational options range from certificate and degree programs to hands-on apprenticeships and practical on-the-job training.

The good news is that entry-level CNC operators can often obtain necessary skills through a few weeks of on-the-job training. Setup programmers generally need formal training and experience. Options include CNC Programmer Certificate, CNC Operator Certificate and Associate of Applied Science in Machine Tool Technology. Programs like these may include courses in drafting, machine math, CNC mill programming, lathe programming, computer-aided machining (CAM) and blueprint interpretation.

Demand also remains strong locally for machinists, who are sought by local manufacturing companies. They typically operate the tools that produce metal parts. In some cases, machinists also are responsible for repairing the various tools used in manufacturing. Apprenticeships are a path to a career as a machinist, but associate degree programs can be found as well. On-the-job training, however, is typical.

Other local job openings seek applicants with a high school diploma. With historically low unemployment in many places, this is a great time for job seekers with a high school diploma to find a job that pays well and they find interesting.

Here is a sampling:

Job: Alarm Installation Technician

Skills or experience: Critical thinking skills and troubleshooting experience; familiarity with hand and power tools

Requirements: Clean driving record

If you have previous experience in security installation or maintenance, so much the better. But if you are familiar with hand tools and power tools, self-starters can do well in this field. In addition to installation, you will also be called on to troubleshoot customer problems and program new alarms and security systems. You will identify risks and provide maintenance on existing alarm systems. Starting pay from $15-$30 an hour is the norm (depending on experience), and a package of attractive benefits and vacation is offered by several are companies.

Job: Assembly

Skills or experience: Good with your hands and (in some cases) power tools

Requirements: Reliable transportation

Production jobs abound in this region and employers are looking for reliable, consistent employees who want to work in a team environment. Most employers offer a fast-paced environment; some jobs are seated and others require standing. A number of these positions are in the electronic field, and involve the use of powered hand tools. Many offer openings on the first or second shift.Starting pay is usually over $10 an hour. Some positions begin as temp positions, but move to full-time employee status. These positions are usually very stable and can lead to long time employment with well-established local companies.

Job: Customer Service

Skills or experience: Excel, Outlook, Word and other computer program knowledge

Requirements: Associates degree is helpful for advanced positions, but previous experience is a plus

From order entry to maintenance tracking, to order tracking, to reporting to spreadsheet administration, customer service jobs are waiting to be filled in many local companies. Can you handle phone calls from customers with an issue? Can you support your internal customers with their questions and needs? Do you have any customer experience, even if its retail? Is problem-solving second nature to you? Excellent communication skills are essential for this job, but new hires can earn $15 an hour if they are ready to hit the ground running.

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