JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - It's a historic graduation for Northeast State Technical Community College.
Tuesday night, more graduates than ever before walked across the stage to receive a diploma.
Though none of those diplomas read bachelor degrees, the graduates are finding jobs. News 5 found out why so many students are turning to two-year schools to pave the way to success.
A recent study by Michigan State University finds the demand for associate degrees across the country has increased by about 30 percent, and people in our region are taking advantage of this trend and landing jobs.
The future looks bright for Northeast State grad David Gyles. He now has an associate degree in machine tool technology.
While the pomp and circumstance is nice, landing a new job is even nicer. "I'll be working for Kennametal in Johnson City. [I'm] going in the mill department. The degree's made the difference," said Gyles.
He's one of hundreds jumping on the community college bandwagon. This year, Northeast State graduated over 1,200 students, making the Class of 2013 its largest class ever. "I think students are realizing the value of the community college," said Billy Benton, Northeast State's registrar.
Benton told us the current job market in our region lends itself to associate degrees. "Nursing and health related is big, but then you have the automotive and computer science, [and] industrial technologies, especially with the local manufacturing realm," explained Benton.
We found out the college is doing what it can to make sure a two-year degree will keep graduates employed in the region. "We've worked with local manufacturers with what they need in the workplace and design certain degrees and certificates of what they need once those students graduate," said Benton.
Now well versed in electro-mechanical skills, new grad Cody Carberry is confident he will end his co-op with Eastman on the path to success. "[It] puts you into a job pretty fast, and it's a good job for that matter. You don't have to wait and have so much expense of [a four-year] college," said Carberry.
For Richard Green, this graduation is opening the doors to a new job in nursing and a new life all his own. "Finally it means I get to move out of my parents' house. I finally get to get a house of my own," said Green.
Northeast State officials told us there's a surprising trend growing on their campus -- we found out more students with bachelor's and master's degrees are coming back to school to gain more specialized skills found in community colleges.