PHOENIX — Jobs, the economy and education are big talking points for politicians on both sides of the aisle, but they are even bigger factors for Arizona students choosing their career paths.
Connor Matoon and his brother, Chandler, are just two of the growing number of students learning precision machining at Gateway Community College.
"Everyone and anyone can do this, it's about who can do it the best, the fastest and the cheapest," said Matoon.
Marissa Mey is foregoing a traditional four-year degree program to fast-track her way into the workforce. Program graduates are in high demand with big-name employers like Raytheon, Honeywell, Boeing and Modern Industries Inc. looking to hire.
Even while ABC15 was on-site, representatives from another local company were in the machine shop looking to connect with students.
"We've introduced some short-term programs that are just basically for operators," said Senior Instructor James Smith. "In 14 weeks, we can turn out students and get them right into industry very quickly to help with that demand."
Demand is growing from both sides. The 2019 "Arizonans Speak Poll" out of ASU's Morrison Institute for Public Policy shows more than 75 percent of people polled think Arizona should have more vocational training options for students after high school. Gateway's Dean of Trade and Technical Training, CJ Wurster, is seeing that firsthand.
"There seems to be almost a resurgence of the trades coming back, partly because of the aging out of the current workforce, there's going to be a significant gap that needs to be filled," said Wurster.
Skills-based programs like HVAC, Electrical, Welding, and Machining, are now expanding across the state. Even local high schools like Skyline in Mesa are expanding their career and technical education offerings, or CTE. They're getting some help from an incentive program passed as part of last year's state budget giving schools that offer CTE programs up to $1,000 for each high school student who graduates with specific industry certifications.
"Simpler classes. You didn't need to go $40,000 in four years and so it's definitely a pretty great alternative," said Connor.