‘Day after day you learn something new’: Student shares his experience at an Austin trade school

More students are choosing trade schools and graduating this past year than in any of the past 10 years, according to a study.

By Kristen CabreraApril 17, 2024 2:44 pm,

As Texas Standard continues to explore the future of work in the state, we take a look at the tango between education institutions and the job market.

Prospective students are having conversations on student loan debts and the price of college education. And after the pandemic lockdowns, four- and two-year institutions are seeing a downward trend.

And for the second year in a row there was a decrease in students earning bachelor’s and associate degrees, according to a new report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Despite this decrease, trade and vocational programs saw more students graduate with a certificate during the 2022-2023 school year than in any of the past decade.

At the Universal Technical Institute in Austin, 18-year-old auto student Ryan Beardsley opens the hood to what looks like the front fourth of a sedan. There’s a grill, an engine and wires but no front bumper, wheels or rest of the car. It’s a working engine for the most part, Beardsley explains.

“We’re looking at diagnostics of ECT front position sensor, looking at the voltage of everything, the resistance, trying to diagnose what the problem would be in certain vehicles,” he said.

Initially Beardsley didn’t know too much about cars, just what he would work on with his dad.

“I learned a lot since I came here,” he said. “Like the density of the [education] material – like it’s day after day you learn something new, basically.”

Beardsley had been working at Walmart when came across an ad for Universal Technical Institute while scrolling through TikTok. Two days later, he was touring the campus and chose to enroll in the auto program, one of four offered along with HVACR, diesel and welding.

Beardsley wants to enter a manufacturer-specific training course after he completes UTI’s auto program.

“I would hope to go into Volvo or Porsche [programs]. I have the grades for it, so hopefully I keep them up,” he said.

Jobs are waiting for potential certificate graduates like Beardsley. The Texas labor market broke records in job growth in 2023, according to the Texas Workforce Commission, with the trade, transportation, and utilities industry leading that increase.

This story is part of Texas Standard’s exploration of the Future of Work in Texas. We’ll have more on the role trade schools play when it comes to the quickly growing industry of hybrid and electric vehicles. Tune in Monday, April 22 for an hourlong special about where some of the biggest industries in the state look to be headed.

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