Across from the used furniture store, and adjacent to a quickie carry-out stands one of Hyattsville's growth industries. a
Technical Electronics Solid State Training Inc. (TESST), founded in 1967, offers almost a textbook example of the growth of the proprietary school industry in Maryland and around the nation.
"The sole purpose of TESST is to prepare for a career as a technician in solid state electronics," explained Wayne Moore, administrator of the 300-student technical school. "Our courses start from scratch with no previous training required. The main program is two years long, or 2,800 hours, and cost $5,980. Our students are in class all the time."
"Ours is one of the longest trade-school programs," said Moore, "and it's expensive. But by being an accredited school, we're qualified for all financial aid and guaranteed student loans, just like a university."
The National Association of Trade and Technical School (NATTS) estimates there are more than 3,000 privately operating trade and vocational school around the country. Such schools nationwide reported an annual growth rate of 15 percent to 20 percent during the past year.
Nationally, more than 1.7 million students paid about $1.69 billion in 1978 to attend noncollegiate vocational programs, although not all of them are accredited by Natts. Next year more than 300,000 students will attend classes at the 500 schools, like Hyattsville's TESST, formally accredited by the association.
TESST, which started with three employes and an initial enrollment of about 20 students, has grown by "about 15 percent a year," according to Joseph F. Shimek Jr. He and his partner, John J. King, "were living in red ink the first three years," Shimek added.
"We began operations with an office, one classroom and one lab," Moore said. TESST now occupies three buildings containing four classrooms, three labs and offices that accomodate 22 employes.
Moore said the school's enrollment had increased by nearly 25 percent during the past year, and women now make up 20 percent of the student body. The school grossed over $600,000 last year of which between 6 percent to 8 percent was profit, added Shimek.
TESST has a government contract with NASA for updating the training of agency technicians. A professor from the University of Maryland is taking the TESST course in digital logic. International student visas have been issued this year to students from the People's Republic of China, India and Israel, and from several countries in southeast Asia and Africa.
"We place 96 percent of those graduates seeking employment. About 70 percent are placed before graduation, and for full-time employment our average is nearly 100 percent," said Moore. He added that 55 of every 100 enrollees finish the two-year course, and every semester completed "qualifies a student for a different level of employment."
"By being a private business," said Moore, "we have to make sure our product works or we'll fold up. We have to be able to place our graduates. We're saying come to school, graduate, and we'll find you a job."