Trade school enrollment on the rise as pandemic continues

Trade schools seeing more students during pandemic

ACWORTH, Ga. — A metro Atlanta trade school says its classes are booked solid because of the demand for work during the pandemic.

“Right now, we’re busier than we’ve ever been in our history,” Georgia Trade School President Joanna Winson said.

Georgia Trade School is located in Acworth. Channel 2′s Dave Huddleston got a firsthand look at their welding program this week.

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For the last eight years, more than 800 students have gone through the 14-week welding program that not only teaches you how to be a welder, but also how to read blueprints.

Vinson said this year’s program is packed and the class is filled with women and men.

“We’ve had more female students this year than ever before, so it’s been a record year. Matter of fact, we had our first female student achieve our highest welding certification just recently,” she said.

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Students graduate from the program with an industry certificate and job prospects.

“We work with the students individually to help them on their job placement with local employers. Typically, locally, metro Atlanta employers because the need is so great here. But we also work with other companies around the country as well,” Vinson said.

Chris Nadel is a student in this year’s program. He told Huddleston he worked white collar jobs most of his life but got tired of it.

“I worked in the airlines, I worked in sales, it was all corporate work and it all very cubicle and structure and I totally burned out on that,” he said.

He says he wants to become a welding inspector.

“It’s a way to give yourself a COVID recession-proof job because the world is held together with welds,” he said.

Ryan Blythe, who founded the school, said it started as a way to give people new opportunities.

“There were very few opportunities outside of going to college or joining the military for kids in middle-class suburban America,” he said.

But because of the pandemic and the economy’s downtown, he says people soon realized trade schools can give you skills that can last a lifetime.

“Now our classes are completely sold out through January,” Blythe said.

It’s $9,500 to enroll at the Georgia Trade School, but there is financial help. Welders can start off making about $14 an hour, but the salary increases to beyond $30 an hour.

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