The top three employment categories in Virginia don’t exactly match the workforce trends in Martinsville, Henry County and Patrick County — but they don’t miss by much either.

Out of the 3.7 million workers in the state, a recent study by the real estate blog Commercial Café revealed, 36.9% are employed in business, 17.8% in the industrial sector and 12.7% in health care.

And Nos. 2 and 3 on that list relate directly to two of the top three course offerings with the highest enrollment percentages at Patrick Henry Community College.

You perhaps have read about the increased need and opportunity nationally in health care, as the U.S. population ages and the Baby Boomer generation retires.

General Studies and transfer degrees make up just more than 50% of the total student enrollment in credit-bearing programs at PHCC, but health care comes in second.

Roughly 20% of the school’s student population enrolls in nursing programs, in which students become a certified nursing assistant or complete coursework toward becoming a paramedic.

And third? Yep.

“Advanced Manufacturing is the third-largest career cluster and makes up 11% of the total student enrollment,” said Greg Hodges, vice president for academic and student success services. “These include fields like welding, motor sports, mechatronics, industrial electronics and general engineering.”

With the largest number of students interested in a transferable degree, the college often sees students continue their educations after receiving their associate’s degrees from PHCC.

“Just under half of the students enrolled in transfer programs transfer to a 4-year university annually. Since transfer degrees are designed to be two-year degrees, it stands to reason that transfer rates in any given year should be right at 50% of the total transfer enrollment,” Hodges said. “This means that the majority of students who complete a transfer degree do end up transferring.”

But those who complete certification programs or focus on other specializations often attempt to jump right into the workforce when their time at PHCC culminates.

“It is challenging to give exact numbers of students who find employment right out of college because our service region is a border community with North Carolina. Gathering employment data from another state is extremely difficult,” Hodges said. “However, PHCC’s career and technical programs are created and delivered in direct alignment with local business and industry. Thus, graduates are typically able to find employment in their chosen field upon completion of their degree — and many even before they complete the credential.”

While going to college can help people land certain jobs, some employers in the area don’t require education beyond a high school diploma — and several don’t even ask for that.

For two of the most prevalent jobs in Patrick County — careers in manufacturing and public safety — a degree is optional.

“Some of the manufacturing jobs, you can go into while you’re still in high school,” said Bryce Simmons, economic development director at the Virginia Workforce Center in Patrick County. “You can become a sheriff’s deputy right out of high school.”

Even one of the top 50 employers in Patrick County has positions available for people without degrees or certifications. At the Landmark Group, a regional health care company, some of the approximately 500 employees — such as those in housekeeping and dietary services — didn’t have to present a degree to land a job.

However, the majority of the positions at the Landmark Center require state licensure and some level of higher instruction.

“As far as some of the skilled care, you do require a certain amount of education,” Simmons said.

The reason that some of the local jobs match up with statewide statistics and others don’t stems from the types of careers in the area – but that could change during the next several years.

“They’re the ones that are available,” Simmons said. “Patrick County especially is in need of some higher technology-based jobs. That is part of my focus, to bring some higher paying positions to the county.”

Collaborating with other communities could also bring a plethora of diverse jobs to the area.

“I think it’s going to have to be a partnership between the region itself,” Simmons said. “I think that Patrick County, Henry County, Pittsylvania County, we’re all going to have to look at this area as a whole and target our regional efforts to bring in industries that benefit everyone that’s here.”

No matter where the local, statewide and national job trends settle in the future, having a plan in place for a passion-driven career can lead an individual to success.

Some people find lucrative and fulfilling careers fresh out of high school. For others, seeking a degree or certification through a community college is a catalyst for achievement.

“There are so many job opportunities in the Martinsville-Henry County community at the moment,” Hodges said. “Health care, teaching, welding, mechatronics, advanced manufacturing, business, marketing and administration of justice are just a handful of areas where employers are asking for graduates”

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