By all accounts, Matt Goodyear, of Morton, Ill., has a bright future ahead, full of opportunities he wouldn’t have ever imagined a few years ago.
After graduating from Morton High School in 1994, Goodyear enrolled at Illinois Central College but soon ran out of motivation and dropped out. Though he worked as an over-the-road truck driver for several years, Matt knew there had to be more he could do with a better education. Years later, armed with life experience and motivation to earn a better wage and finish his degree, he enrolled again at ICC. He earned an Associate in Applied Science degree in Mechatronics in 2015.
Last October, he earned a spot as one of 250 students chosen from thousands of applicants to participate in NASA’s Community College Aerospace Scholars program in Huntsville, Ala. There he worked with a team of 10 students from across the nation to build a Mars rover out of Legos and sell it to NASA. Today, Goodyear is concurrently working on a second associate’s degree at ICC while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Management in Applied Engineering from Southern Illinois University Carbondale through weekend classes he takes at ICC. Recently, he was asked to interview for a job at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
“The classes at ICC gave me a very good foundation to build that career on. Just like when you build a house, you want to have a good foundation first. The instructors (at ICC) want to see their students succeed,” Goodyear said. “I was given a second chance, and I want to take advantage of that.”
ICC joins community colleges throughout the state in recognition of success stories like Goodyear’s during Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month in February. These programs offer students a wide variety of options for coursework that translates into good job opportunities without the four-year commitment. Many CTE programs build upon each other, meaning a student can complete a certificate or degree and use that credential as the educational foundation for the next level degree.
At ICC, roughly one in five students is pursuing a CTE credential in a given semester. More than half of the degrees awarded from ICC in 2015 were awarded to students earning certificates or applied science degrees, both of which are CTE credentials.
“CTE education is the key to ensuring our students are qualified for middle skills jobs which offer family- sustaining wages. Be it a nurse, web designer or diesel technician, our occupational graduates are job ready and become the bedrock of our local economy,” said ICC President Dr. Sheila Quirk-Bailey. “These programs offer career ladders and pathways to allow students like Matt to launch their careers and realize their dreams.”
The Center for Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University noted in a recent report that “occupational choice can trump degree level. People with less education in high-paying occupations can out-earn people with more education in less remunerative occupations.” According to Illinois Community College Board (ICCB), last year roughly two-thirds (65.3%) of all Illinois community college graduates earned a CTE degree or certificate.
“CTE programs are investing in students and providing them with the latest technology and skills that will prepare them to become successful employees and future leaders,” said ICCB executive director Dr. Karen Hunter Anderson.