CTE Experience Prepares Walthall Graduate for College, Career

The Walthall County Career and Technology Center (WCCTC) has produced many success stories since its opening in 2001.

What schools once referred to as vo-tech is now several programs of study, many of which will qualify a person to perform at entry-level positions or better, depending on their skillset. Now, more and more career and technology (CTE) students are advancing to technical schools and community colleges to further their careers, boost their starting salary and acquire additional training for specialized jobs.

One example is J.C. Atterberry, who enrolled at WCCTC as a junior in high school. He decided on a career field in vehicle mechanics, and the automotive technician program at the center proved a good fit for Atterberry. The hands-on experience in auto shop, along with learning how to utilize service manuals and accessing computers, showed Atterberry how technical and academic education are related.

With the help of his instructors and career counselors, Atterberry mapped out his high school schedule and CTE courses to maximum benefit. By setting a goal ― in his case, becoming a diesel and truck technician ― and listening to the faculty’s advice, Atterberry decided additional training past the CTE high school course would be in order.

He enrolled in the Nashville, Tennessee-based Lincoln Tech’s diesel and truck technology in 2020 after graduating from the Walthall County School District. This year, Atterberry studied adhesive bonding and plastic welding while he worked as a mechanic for FedEx.

There seems to be no end to the opportunity in Atterberry’s chosen field. Companies including Caterpillar, Cummings and Detroit Diesel are actively recruiting and aiding students in the field.

Lincoln Tech is a magnet location for U.S. and international students, and they help students by holding on-campus career fairs that draw some of the best-known companies to the campus, where they meet, interview and recruit Lincoln graduates.

Atterberry has plenty of good reasons for making the choice he did. For instance, there is a projected double-digit growth in the diesel and truck tech field, with four out of five students from the program getting hired in the field when they graduate. 

The additional education he is receiving at Lincoln Tech means a sizeable increase in salary, as the median salary for an entry-level diesel tech is $54,090 a year, and most achieve $60,586 within their first few years of employment. Advancing to senior tech means another boost in pay: $63,457-$68,309. Generally, technicians receive full benefits, like medical and retirement, too.



ABOUT CONNECTIONS

Connections is the magazine for K-12 career and technical education (CTE) in Mississippi. The biannual publication features students, educators, schools, and organizations from approximately 50 career pathways across 16 career clusters. This Mississippi Department of Education publication is produced by the Research and Curriculum Unit at Mississippi State University. Issues are disseminated in print and electronic forms in May and December each year.

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