Taina Padilla Anderson

New Collar Jobs for New Generation

Worker training and post-secondary education have long been priorities in the South Sound, dating back to the founding of the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma in 1888. Since then, students have even more options, including University of Washington Tacoma, Pacific Lutheran University, Pierce College, Bates Technical College and Clover Park Technical College, among others.

Taina Padilla Anderson is both a product of this deep educational network and also now teaching a new generation of students herself. Taina, 34, graduated from UW Tacoma in 2015 with a master’s degree in Geospatial Technologies (which is geographic mapping and analysis, like GPS or GIS), after earning a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in Texas. She’s currently using both her degrees teaching students at Bates Technical College in Tacoma.

Her students will earn two-year associate’s degrees of applied science in civil engineering technology. They’re learning the skills to be civil engineering technologists, helping build highways, bridges and other infrastructure through the use of computer software and hardware. They will be equipped for a family-wage job and employed by engineering firms or city, county or state governments.

A New Type of Job

The future occupation of Taina’s students is an example of a “new collar” job by filling the crucial technical labor gap with a vocation requiring less than a four-year degree but still with high pay for high skill.

Her students come from a variety of backgrounds, including recent high school graduates, people looking to move up in the workforce and construction workers seeking to diversify their skills. Their ages range from 19 to 61. “I really like the chance I have to uplift people’s lives,” Taina said. “One of my students went from making minimum wage to having a 401k. I can dig that.”

Taina, who also lives in Tacoma, said she feels supported at Bates Technical College, where the class sizes are small and she can give attention to each student. “It’s been wonderful to teach at Bates,” she said. “Everything is set up so that the students have the best opportunities for success.”