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      The Tri-States' hottest blue collar jobs

      The economy seems to be getting better, but we know it's still tough. There is good news though. Blue collar jobs are in red-hot demand right now. We scouted out the hottest jobs in the Tri-States.

      With America's baby boomers retiring, huge worker shortages are developing now in health care, construction and all of the skilled trades. Local job agencies say light industries provide the greatest employment opportunities.

      "Quite a bit from warehouse positions, factory positions, including welding and fork lifts, along with clerical positions, too. So anything from administrative assistant to accounting positions," said Ashley Mayfield, an Adecco Staffing recruiter.

      Most industrial positions require a GED or high school diploma.

      "Work experience in the field you're going into is extremely important as well, at least a year if not more," said Mayfield.

      Some of these jobs require more than a high school education. That's why workers of all ages are suddenly flooding the Tri-State's community colleges.

      "With the economy, we've had a lot of students that have lost jobs and they now have to come back to John Wood for retraining. A lot are going into the 1-year program or 2-year program in office technology", said Carol Sharpe, the Dept. Chair for Office Technology and Computer Science at JWCC.

      Karen Sherwood is one of those students.

      "I was a traditional college student. I graduated from SIUE with a bachelor's degree back in 1990. I worked for 8 years, then became a stay-at-home mom for 12. Then I decided I needed to reenter the workforce but, now with all the computer technology, I was lost," said Sherwood. "I got, 'you do not have the skills to meet our qualifications.'"

      As the job market changes, so does the school's curriculum to meet the needs of employers.

      "We call 'em up and ask if we can meet and ask what's going on and what are the challenges they're facing today, and figuring out what we need to do to change to meet their needs," said Bill Martin, a JWCC Workforce liason.

      Changing jobs? What's it going to cost you?

      The average tuition at John Wood Community College for a full-time student earning a degree is about four thousand dollars a year. That breaks down to $127 per credit hour, not counting financial aid.

      For a student in a certificate program, such as welding, it will cost you half the price and take about half the time.

      You may have to pay extra for equipment needed in hands-on training.

      Now the big question:

      How much do these jobs pay?

      We looked at the average pay for some of the hottest blue collar jobs.

      If you're looking at becoming an Electrician: the entry level pay comes to about $13-$28 per hour.

      Beginning carpenters should be making about $12-$22 per hour, though union workers typically get more.

      There's a big shortage in the Trucking industry, but initial annual wages can pay $30,000 to $50,000.

      Welders are in high demand, with entry level pay around $12-$16 per hour, plus overtime.

      Finally, an entry level machinist will get paid anywhere from $11-$16 per hour. The regional average salary is about $29,000. The downfall to this job is its consistency in terms of the economy.