The fast track to a high-paying rewarding career is not always through the front gates of a university. Students in nearby Ashtabula County are finding another way — a high school vocational education.

In Ashtabula Co., Ohio, the Technical & Career Campus in Jefferson is impressive.

Spread out over five buildings, A-Tech offers 19 different career opportunities to high school students.

There’s a waiting list to get into some programs according to a -tech’s superintendent, a familiar face to JET 24 and FOX 66 viewers.

“Eighteen of our programs are two-year programs for juniors and seniors, and we have one class called ‘career tech exploration’ which I call the most popular program in Ashtabula County. We placed 72 students into that program and this past year, we had over 150 applications. I think students, parents and families are seeing the value in career tech education, and it’s reflected in our career tech enrollment,” said Scott Wludyga, A-Tech superintendent

A popular program at A-tech is welding. And there’s a good reason why — many companies are searching for welders.

“They can not find enough welders, so there’s a very very big demand. And the pay rate goes higher with the big demand. Some of my students have gotten jobs where they’re already making six figures three years out of high school, six figures as welders,” said Joe Waite, welding instructor.

Jason Hamilton Jr. loves welding and wants to follow in his father and uncle’s footsteps.

“It’s all about making art, it’s all about fabrication. I just love to fabricate and do stuff with my hands. I just love getting dirty, that’s what it’s about — hard work pays off,” said Hamilton.

Continuing a family tradition seems to be a familiar theme in other programs too, like precision machining.

“My dad is a CNC machinist. He works with CNCs and I would like to become a machinist myself. He owns his own business, Light Molding Machinery, so I wanna come learn how to actually do the trade,” said Colton Newhart, aspiring CNC machinist

As a poster on the classroom wall illustrates a tech school education, you have lots of opportunities: entry-level, technical and professional.

“For example, our engineering academy, a couple of years ago two seniors graduated — one goes directly into the workforce with a great paying job in Ashtabula. The other student is now at the University of Akron studying to be an engineer. It’s really about the individual and what do they want to do with the skills they gain here. The bottom line is that career tech education is a foundation for success,” said Scott Wludyga