College or bust: Do today's kids truly need a four-year degree?

College or bust: Do today's kids truly need a four-year degree?
(Source: WBRC video)
(Source: WBRC video)

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - "College or bust." That's the mentality for a lot of Alabama families, but a new study suggests there may be too many of us telling our kids their only ticket to a good future is a 4-year degree.

The Georgetown University study found Alabama has 180,000 jobs that pay at least $35,000 a year that only require a high school diploma, and the number of those jobs is on the rise.

In fact, a study from says more than half of what they call "good jobs" in Alabama are held by workers who don't have a bachelor's degree.

But convincing parents and students to pursue the career tech route can be a tough sell.

"We want to make sure they have the options and opportunities to do whatever is needed because you never know what life's going to bring you," says Bobby Jackson, Jefferson County's Career Technical Education Director.

"We start far beyond, much earlier than high school years identifying career choices for the young men and young ladies," says Dr. Joseph Garner, Hueytown's principal. "Even with career awareness in elementary school."

Hueytown has expanded their career tech offerings to include automotive technology and health sciences - 2 key growth areas for companies in the Birmingham metro area looking to hire.

"Every student can be successful, every student is plugged into a where they can be successful," Dr. Garner said. "It improves attendance rate, academic achievement, improves discipline all at the high school level through the career tech education."

"We try to change the mindset of our parents to understand we're trying to give our kids options," Jackson says. "We wanna make sure our kids have the skills to go straight to work if they have that opportunity, 2-year college, 4-year college, or they can do all of them."

Jefferson County works hand-in-hand with four community colleges and the biggest employers in the Birmingham area to make sure the classes these career tech kids are taking fill the right gaps, and Hueytown offers career pathways in two of the hottest sectors - automotive and health sciences.

"We're even trying to put some of these pathways down even earlier in middle school so when these kids complete the four-year plans, we make sure we have the correct pathway for these students," Dr. Garner says.

Hueytown also uses these classes to do community outreach: Their automotive students offer free oil changes to selected neighbors.

To read more about that study on "good jobs" from Georgetown, click here.

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