WAUKESHA, Wis. — Technical college graduates cannot get hired fast enough.

A spokesperson for the Wisconsin Technical College System said despite the COVID-19 pandemic and what it has done to the job market, tech school grads are in high demand.

Erik Theissen, 21, graduated from Waukesha County Technical College this past May. He now works at Superior Crane, a family-owned company in Waukesha. It is also his hometown.

He loves what he does.

“I absolutely love it,” he said. “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t like what I did.”

Theissen graduated from WCTC’s tool and die-making program and said his classmates had an easy time getting hired too. Erik got a job offer from Superior Crane owner, Chris Healy, before he graduated.

He happened to come through WCTC on a tour and asked me if I was working yet," Theissen said. “I wasn’t at the time and after a couple interviews, here we are.”

Erik’s work ethic is what drew Healy to him immediately.

“The way he was cleaning the tools and putting things away, you could tell right away,” Healy said. “He was very particular about the work he did.”

Healy admits the demand for workers is something he tries to fill everyday. Filling this demand with competent, skilled workers is what he strives for. 

“Any warm body is a good thing nowadays, but just Erik’s etiquette and how he was building it,” Healy said.

During the pandemic, technical college graduates are experiencing a hiring rate much different than their four-year traditional college counterparts. Theissen sees it first-hand.

“When it comes to finding jobs coming out of a two-year technical school, I had to turn down job opportunities because I already had one,” Theissen said.  “I have friends that are currently in four-year schools that are having a hard time finding something and finding a place that’s worth the while.”

Data from WTCS shows throughout all 16 technical colleges in the state, 91% of tech college grads had a job within six months of graduation in 2020. 75% were working in a job within their field.  2021 numbers will be out next year.

WTCS sent out a survey to all 24,558 2020 tech college graduates. 15,256 answered, with 9,027 reporting they were in the labor force. Of those not working, 90% cited continuing education as the reason.  

Read the 2019-20 WTCS Fact Book here.

Spectrum News 1 previously reported on how traditional college graduates within the two largest UW System schools were fairing in a job market impacted greatly by the pandemic. Click here to read that story. 

Theissen reiterated the demand for trade workers is so high, it can be tough to keep up with.

“At WCTC, every classroom had a sign outside listing every company in Wisconsin looking for employees,” he said. “In our area, it was in the hundreds of thousands.”

WCTC Vice President of Learning Brad Piazza said 2020 was the college’s largest graduating class. 

“I can’t even tell you how many students have job offers before they end here,” Piazza said. “Other than being shutdown for three months, we opened back up and offered hands on training because many of our employers didn’t stop hiring this whole time.”

Brad also said Wisconsin has a particularly strong technical college system.

“The work we do in the two-year sphere within the technical college system in Wisconsin is truly amazing,” he said. “I think we’re a big part of why employers settle here.”