BEDFORD —The first courses under the umbrella of a new regional career and technical education academy for the Lynchburg area will begin in fall 2020, Central Virginia Community College President John Capps told Bedford town officials during a Sept. 10 meeting.
CVCC and area educators and officials have been working on the new CTE academy initiative for about six months, Capps said to members of the Bedford Town Council. The academy would be for dual-enrollment students, recent high school graduates and unemployed or underemployed adults to earn credentials for targeted industry employment sectors, CVCC announced in February.
The efforts were boosted by a grant award of $267,181 to establish the academy and help students earn skill-based credentials required by some employers, the college previously announced.
Capps said area employers recently were surveyed and about 150 said they need more skilled workers. The academy will be built upon programs such as precision machining and welding while expanding the college’s offering of courses, most notably in trades, he said.
“We currently have no vacancies in any of the welding courses,” Capps said. “They are completely filled up.”
CVCC recently started a new curriculum for those looking to get into electrical work and will add courses in plumbing, construction, industrial maintenance and more based on needs of local employers, Capps said.
“It is specifically tailored to meet the needs of our service area,” Capps said of the planned curriculum.
All school divisions in the Lynchburg region have agreed to participate, he said. The academy is an outgrowth of Gov. Ralph Northam’s “G3” initiative, which stands for “Get Skilled, Get a Job and Give Back” as part of the statewide effort to offer more jobs through Virginia’s community colleges, according to Capps.
He told the Bedford council it is anticipated part of Northam’s legislative agenda includes petitioning the Virginia General Assembly to provide tuition scholarships for students who enroll in the high demand CTE-related courses.
“We expect a significant influx of students to take advantage of this unprecedented opportunity,” Capps said, adding: “We want to promote economic development. We want to provide students with gainful employment.”
Amherst County Public Schools Superintendent Rob Arnold, who serves on the new academy’s advisory team, said in a phone interview Wednesday many industries are having problems finding qualified workers to meet all of their needs. Areas such as welding, iron working and machine tools, among others, are in high demand, he said.
“It is really important to Amherst County to see this be successful,” Arnold said. “It strikes me as very important for our school systems to be in line with those needs, to do things that provide students the opportunity to access those career paths.”
Amherst County Administrator Dean Rodgers said in an email the greatest concern the county hears from employers is their challenge in finding capable employees.
“If Amherst County is to become better at attracting new businesses to our locality, we have to be able to demonstrate that we can produce a viable workforce,” Rodgers said. “This starts in middle school and progresses through high school.”
Rodgers said the academy will help better position all area localities to be ready for prospective businesses.
“When businesses come looking for a new location, they look at the manpower available in the entire region, not just one county at a time,” Rodgers said. “If this academy can be brought into existence, it can become the training facility for all our local major employers; it will put us miles ahead in attracting businesses to our area.”
Capps said the focus of the new academy’s operations is CVCC’s main campus in Lynchburg. He said Bedford’s CVCC branch in town could possibly be used and satellite centers also are envisioned.
“The No. 1 thing I hope it teaches is work ethic,” Bedford Mayor Steve Rush said. “You hear from employers, they’ve got to get them to show up.”
Arnold said the new regional academy is similar in concept to programs such as the Central Virginia Governors School for Science and Technology, which launched in 1985 and draws area students to Heritage High School in Lynchburg.
Amherst County school officials push CTE programs hard but space in the programs is limited, Arnold said. For example, machine tooling and heating, ventilation and air conditioning trades are not offered at the high school, according to Arnold.
Consolidating area educators’ efforts into a regional facility gives local school systems a much better chance to find teachers, provide more resources and give students a wider variety of options as they prepare to enter the workforce, he said.
“We’re limited in space and resources inside the walls of Amherst County High School,” Arnold said. “That’s why it’s really important and that’s why I’m pushing hard to get this done.”
Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.
Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.