New regional Career and Technical Academy needed

Virginia Western working to add high school classes

ROANOKE – A regional Career and Technical school for high school students is needed, according to a study that says local companies are seeing a lack of experience, skills and applicants.

The Virginia General Assembly approved $100,000 to begin a study about how it would work and that study was just completed. The new academy would be the first of its kind in Virginia.

The top areas having trouble hiring people in our region are:
Architecture & Construction, Manufacturing, Business Management & Administration, Transportation, Distribution & Logistics, Health Science and Hospitality & Tourism

If people have the skills, businesses will come to the region as we've seen with Eldor and Deschutes.

"Some of our school districts have amazing career and technical education centers. Others are able to offer very little," said Elizabeth Wilmer, Virginia Western VP of Academic and Student Affairs.

A team at Virginia Western is working to add high school career and technical education classes.
It would follow the Governor's School model where students spend half a day at the community college and the other half at their high school.

Wilmer says Career and Technical education would still exist in each district but students could get higher levels of training with the new academy.

"There are lots of programs out there for students in the upper 10 to 20-percent or in the lower 10 to 20-percent but it's the group in the middle that needs more opportunity and, yes, we want to level the playing field for that group," said Wilmer.

"This can't be a program that is for everybody," said Chris Head, a Republican Delegate for the 17th District who proposed the study.

Students would have to be gifted in CTE areas, much like the Governor's School students have to qualify.

"The levels of equipment and facilities that you will have here are going to exceed what you would be able to have in any one specific school system," said Head.

The next step is trying to get this paid for. The plan is to bring it up in the upcoming General Assembly session but it may take two sessions to finally get the funding. Virginia Western is also applying for grants.

The regional academy would include Roanoke and Salem city schools and Roanoke, Craig, Botetourt and Franklin county schools.