Brevard Public Schools expands technical, trade programs to help students avoid college debt

More kids are ditching college for trade schools to stay out of debt and find careers in growing industries. 

New National Student Clearinghouse Research Center data show that vocational program enrollment is up 16%. Brevard Public Schools is embracing the shift with new programs in tech education coming online over the next five years. 

Eau Gallie High School is ground zero right now for trade programs focusing on aviation, helping students find new paths for their futures.

"You’re never bored when it comes to aviation mechanics," said Indira Cacique, who just graduated from BPS with a certificate in aviation. 

Working on planes excites students like Cacique in Bill McInnish's programs. The aerospace aviation teacher says his goal is to equip students with skills that allow them to "leave straight from high school and go directly on a job in the aerospace industry."

His students are leaving high school with aerospace certifications because of their hands-on technical training in a state-of-the-art aviation facility at the high school. They can land jobs without college degrees.

"What we’re seeing is, is a lot of students that may have not fit that college mold that went to college, took on the debt, and now they can’t afford a home, they can’t afford a car," said BPS school board member, Matt Susin, who’s a massive supporter of trade programs. 

The cost of a bachelor’s degree is skyrocketing. One new study estimated that it is currently $500,000, considering student loan interest and loss of income. 

Student loan debt isn’t something some 2024 BPS grads have to worry about anymore.

"I got the job," exclaimed Tadrian Smith, who also went through the aviation certification programs at Eau Gallie. 

He was just hired by Lockheed Martin because he’s already certified.

"Trades like this, right out of high school, you can find relatively good jobs," he said. 

That’s why Brevard Public Schools is moving forward with a new five-year plan to expand career and technical education programs across the district. 

"It’s going to be the largest expansion of career and technical programs in the history of BPS," said Susin. 

The new expansion will establish cutting-edge trade programs district-wide in different fields at several schools.

"It’s actually pretty cool," said Bristol Hooser, a current BPS student getting her hands on aviation education before high school, thanks to a summer camp. 

 Students and parents will start to see several new programs coming on board, with some starting as soon as next school year. 

There will be agriculture programs at Astronaut High School, machine certifications at Bayside High School, artificial intelligence at Cocoa Beach Jr/Sr High School, and electrician courses at Heritage High School, to name a few.

These trade careers seek skilled workers, and BPS wants its students to get the jobs.

 "Everybody comes to school and says, I want to be a lawyer, a doctor, a firefighter," said Susin. "Let’s start hearing, I want to be a plumber, a pipefitter, an electrician."

"Have you called an electrician lately or a plumber? They make what a doctor makes," concluded McInnish. 

Teachers are encouraging parents to let their kids try out tech programs the district is offering in 5th and 6th grade. This interests them when they're young so they can be certified and ready for careers when they graduate.