Amid the flying sparks of fusing metals and clanging in the weld shop at Drake State Technical and Community College on Wednesday were students who have mostly left their high school days behind them.
However some, like Thomas Cagle, are still very much in the midst of those days.
"Starting at a young age, it will be easier for me to get my name out there and build a reputation," said Thomas Cagle.
Both Thomas and his older brother Ryan, are home schooled while also taking college courses. The brothers are on very different paths though. Ryan is aiming toward a career working with engineering graphics and Thomas plans on going into the construction business.
"I want to be a contractor or own my own construction company. So being able to weld will always stick with me and it will show that I can achieve stuff. I can conquer anything," said Thomas Cagle.
This semester, Drake State has the highest number of dual enrollment students it has ever had at 216. That's more than double the 106 students they had in the previous spring semester.
According to the most recent data from the Alabama Commission on Higher Education, from 2000 through 2018, there was an almost 650 percent increase in dual enrollment for two-year colleges across the State of Alabama from 1,816 students to 13,494 students.
Ryan and Thomas believe that's partially because students want to get into the workforce more quickly.
"I think a lot of people like to get their gen. ed. classes out of the way. I’m going to transfer to a four-year university after I graduate from here, but I won’t have to do any gen. ed.," said Thomas.
Last year, Alabama also budgeted $1 million to help offset the costs associated with dual enrollment along with credential fees for apprentices, according to the governor's office.
For more about dual enrollment opportunities at Drake State, click here.