TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — There is a growing trend of high school students passing on traditional 4-year colleges and heading into apprenticeships instead.

Many are graduating without debt and their college education paid for by a company that sponsors the program. When they complete the 4-year program, there’s a career waiting for them.

Many of these jobs pay the same as what an average college graduate would earn.

“There’s a workforce shortage out there right now – so we grab them right out of high school, and put them in apprentice training program, get their career started pretty early,” said Steve Cona III, who is the CEO of Associated Builders and Contractors Florida Gulf Coast.

Demand for employees in the construction industry is so high, Tampa’s Associated Builders and Contractors has partnered with 115 contractors and has 400 students in its apprenticeship program.

“I’m learning as I go. It’s paid for by the company, and when I get out, I’ll be able to have a nice salary.” said Christopher Garcia, who just graduated from Wiregrass High School in Wesley Chapel.

Garcia is now working at Power Design Inc. in St. Petersburg.  The National Electrical Contractor has a sprawling state of the art campus with a hands-on training program.

“No other company has any kind of program like this in place.  Power Design spent over $6 million in training last year.” said Bobby Howard of Power Design Inc.

The company recreated what it looks like an actual job site, so students can get real-life experience. When they graduate from what is essentially a 4-year construction college, there will be a job waiting for them.

“There is significant demand. The number of electricians and construction professionals is more than double that what’s coming in to the industry,” said Marlene Velez of Power Design Inc.

The apprenticeship program will continue to expand as demand grows, especially in the state of Florida. Learn more here.WHAT OTHERS ARE CLICKING ON RIGHT NOW

–>> back to WFLA.com for more top stories