New Career Academy Points Students Toward High Paying Jobs in Engineering Technology
Award-Winning Teacher to Build LWHS Program
Last updated 8/27/2019 at 4:34pm
Michael Sargent is the only member of his family to graduate from college, so he knows a four-year degree is not the only way to build a successful career. He's literally bustling with energy and enthusiasm as he prepares to share engineering principles and high paying career options with students at Lake Wales High School.
Sargent will be creating the school's new Applied Engineering Technology Academy, and he's clearly up to the challenge. He was recognized in July by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for being named Florida Advanced Technological Education Center's 2019 Distinguished Manufacturing Secondary Educator-of-the-Year Award. Sargent taught math and then built an exemplary engineering technology program at Ridge Community High School and he'll put his contacts and experiences to work in Lake Wales.
"I'm thrilled he's with us," said Principal Donna Dunson. "This program is going to be amazing."
Sargent says he's building an academy program where students can leave high school with not only a diploma but also up to 5 different industry certifications, four related to computer-aided design (CAD). The more extensive certified production technician certification is worth 15 college credits, so he's working with the director of the Polk State Advanced Manufacturing Facility at Clear Springs to develop a dual enrollment option where the truly focused students can also leave high school with their associate's degree in applied engineering.
"I believe we might be the first high school in the state of Florida that's offering an applied engineering associate's degree at no cost. The children here will have the opportunity of earning that," Sargent said.
He said he wants to offer juniors and seniors the opportunity to use the lab to take 5-week online courses and then just go to Clear Springs to do their hands-on testing.
Those who complete the degree can then enter the work force making upwards of $50,000 per year as a starting salary, Sargent said, noting even without a four-year degree, engineering technicians can expect their salaries to grow to the $90,000 to $100,000 range. Job options will be plentiful and Sargent said he will work closely with industry contacts to actually refer students for job opportunities once they graduate.
Since it's the first year of the academy, Sargent will be expected to attract students and build the program.
"I'm expecting my numbers to be lower the first year but then once the kids see what we're doing and building it's going to become very competitive in future years to get into this program," Sargent said.
His hands-on, high-tech lab contains much of the same equipment used in industry: "The kids will actually learn the real stuff here; It's not a watered down program."
Those who want to pursue a full engineering degree also will need to take higher level math and science courses, Sargent said, noting: "I can't guarantee an engineering degree is going to be easy but I can give them a great head start and a confidence boost."
The great earning potential in engineering technology begs the question of why someone with Sargent's background would pursue a career in public education. For Sargent, the answer is simple: "I love teaching, It's so much fun."