TODAY   |  April 26, 2013

An old industry provides new jobs for teens

Kids used to go to college to avoid working minimum-wage jobs in factories. But nowadays kids are going to vocational school to get high-tech factory jobs working with computer programs and robotics.

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>>> "today answer good news" this morning jobs for teens and the revival of an old industry. nbc's craig melvin is here with details on that. good morning.

>> good morning. 16.2%, savannah guthrie , that's the unemployment rate for people under the age of 25. it's about double the national average but there's a new program in massachusetts that's helping young people find well paying jobs and the good news for many? you don't have to have a college degree to be hired. he remembers what some of his buddies said he decided not to go to a traditional high school .

>> they thought it was a stupid choice, people make fun of vocational schools and now they're like man i wish i went there.

>> reporter: when the 16-year-old graduates next year he'll make around $45,000. right now in massachusetts , that's the average starting salary in manufacturing.

>> i can make as much money as someone going to college coming straight out of high school and i don't have to pay for college loans or anything like that.

>> reporter: no woodworking or table saws here. that shop class from a bygone era is a high tech training ground paying well for workers. walk me through.

>> i'm cutting a part and makes a clean finish on it.

>> reporter: as part of massachusetts 's amp it up program, students use state of the art machines and robots to program and design.

>> better than sitting in a classroom to me.

>> reporter: pathfinder regional vocational school has become wildly popular.

>> there is a waiting list for kids that want to get into it.

>> reporter: mary jane says her students have little trouble once they're out. in 2011 every pathfinder graduate landed a job in their field.

>> those machine shops are clamoring for people. they can't expand because they don't have any highly skilled people.

>> reporter: demand is going to increase over the next decade. massachusetts expects 100,000 new advanced manufacturing jobs, the most growth of any sector. many of the new jobs will be in biotechnology and involve creating medical components.

>> the question is how do we make sure that the opportunity is there to get the skills levels across the need in our economy.

>> reporter: governor deval patrick 's answer involves changing perceptions.

>> college is right for many but not for everybody.

>> i can break down a machine, set it up with a brand new job.

>> reporter: did you think about college?

>> i did when i was younger. i knew from an early age i didn't want to do it. it's not for me.

>> reporter: but michael rhodes says he loves his job at mirox corporation not only because he's 19 and can afford a new car and save for a house, there's something else.

>> it is the easily the hardest thing i've done in my life.

>> reporter: in the 21st century classroom part of the draw is that they won't be working in their grandfather's factory.

>> i thought it was working on assembly line , assembling things, doing the same thing, repetitive motion but it's not.

>> so officials are rolling the program out nationally. it's become very popular and manufacturing employers are so desperate to fill these open jobs and they wanted me to give you something as well and they're not making medical devices and things of that nature, they make cool games.

>> wow.

>> they said make sure savannah and matt get this game. you can play this at home.

>> i will.

>> take it at home.

>> it's heavy, too. it's amazing. that's skilled work, great to see the manufacturing sector doing so well. it's a two-hander. help me, craig melvin. thank