Not many people can say they got a job -- a good job, the kind that marks the beginning of a real career -- right out of high school.
But I can.
I went to a career and technical high school, Toledo Technology Academy. If you're like a lot of people, you might be thinking of last century's voc-tech programs -- you know, wood shop, auto mechanics, blue-collar stuff. Wrong. I earned 26 college credits at TTA -- we're talking calculus and computer-aided design and mechanical engineering. Plus, I learned enough to qualify for a robotics scholarship. Yesterday's voc-tech is today's career and technical education.
And the best part is that now I get to do what I love: engineering.
I've always loved everything about engineering. Even as a kid, I played with Lego and K'Nex sets. When I learned about Toledo Tech, it was really hard to say no.
The technical education program gave me a huge leg up on students who went to conventional high schools. I have good friends doing engineering in college, and they are struggling. I'm in college, too -- in addition to working a paid internship -- and after my experience at TTA, the subject matter comes pretty easily. I got all the background I needed there, plus hands-on experience. I didn't just read about engineering in a book, I got into the lab and did real machining, electrical wiring and programing, pneumatic plumbing -- it was a very thorough course of study. We also got to compete at SkillsUSA, a national competition that tests your knowledge in your chosen career, whether it's cooking or mechanics or, in my case, the emerging field of mechatronics. My team won a silver medal.
And to top it all off, I got a full-year internship at General Motors while I was still in high school. I helped design a mobile workstation for the factory floor, and this year they're actually putting it in their budget. That project taught us so much, from discipline and teamwork to public presentation and technical skills. It's something I'm really proud of.
In addition to attending college -- I've just finished my freshman year -- I have a new internship where I do engineering drawings and change orders. My boss has already expressed an interest in hiring me for a full-time position as soon as I get my degree, so then I'd be a full-fledged engineer with the company, right out of college. I know I'll be ready. The benefit of attending a good career and technical school is that you learn how the real world works and how to be a professional. We started talking about professionalism in our freshman year of high school! And during my GM internship, our presentations blew the company away. We spoke in front of 30 VIPs at the company, and because of our training, it wasn't really that scary.
In my experience, career and technical education gave me so many options and a huge head start in my career. I'll always be grateful for the opportunities it offered.