The Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC) and its partners in the Go-TEC (Great Opportunities in Technology and Engineering Careers) collaborative have been awarded a $648,000 state grant to prepare local students for high-growth careers in information technology, advanced manufacturing and related fields.
Go-TEC is a partnership between higher education centers in Halifax, Pittsylvania and Henry counties, and the K-12 school systems in their service areas. Higher education partners are the SVHEC, Danville Community College, the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research, New College Institute Patrick Henry Community College, and Southside Virginia Community College.
“This is regional collaboration at its very best,” said Dr. Betty H. Adams, SVHEC executive director. “The Go-TEC project leverages existing technical programs of excellence across the region while reaching into middle schools to inspire and motivate local students into high-demand career pathways.”
The Go-TEC project is being funded by a competitive grant from the Commonwealth’s GO Virginia (Growth and Opportunity for Virginia) initiative. According to a release from Governor Ralph Northam’s Office, the Go-Virginia grants are for “projects that each region identified as vital to their efforts to diversify the regional economy, strengthen their workforce, and support collaborative programs between localities, public entities and private businesses.”
The Go-TEC project was the only one selected for funding in Region 3 which includes the cities of Danville and Martinsville and the counties of Halifax, Charlotte, Mecklenburg, Amelia, Buckingham, Brunswick, Cumberland, Lunenburg, Nottoway, Prince Edward Henry, Patrick and Pittsylvania.
“By preparing our young people for well-paying in-demand careers in the region, Go-TEC will give our young people a reason to stay and sends a strong message to industry that Southern Virginia is serious about delivering a skilled workforce,” Adams said.
Go-TEC will build on existing high-tech programs at the SVHEC, three community colleges and two other higher education centers, while giving students more hands-on exposure to these in-demand career pathways starting in middle school.
Areas of focus are precision machining; welding; information technology and cybersecurity; robotics, automation and mechatronics; and advanced materials.
Danville City Schools and Pittsylvania County Schools will serve as pilot sites for new Go-TEC career exploration labs outfitted with welding simulators, tabletop precision machining equipment, robotics equipment and computer technology to introduce middle school students to topics like networking, cybersecurity and programming.
The grant also will fund a Go-TEC trainer who will work with middle and high school teachers on use of the lab technology, and the development of a career exploration curriculum that can be used by school systems across the state. By building awareness in grades six through eight, students interested in the identified training programs will be able to choose relevant high school courses and dual enrollment pathways to prepare for these careers.
“This is a win-win for students, workers, and industry in our region,” said Dr. Bruce Scism, Danville Community College President and SVHEC Board of Trustees Member. “Go-TEC focuses on career areas that are growing across Virginia and provide higher-than-average salaries. However, students may not know these jobs exist, or how to prepare for them, as they are making decisions about their future.”
Complementing the Go-TEC initiative, the SVHEC will launch its Career Tech Academy this fall with high schools in Halifax, Charlotte, and Mecklenburg Counties. Initially, the Career Tech Academy will offer training in mechatronics and information technology (IT). During the 2019 academic year, it is anticipated that precision machining will be available. Each program will provide students with a set of industry recognized certifications.
After graduation, students may continue their training at the SVHEC, enroll in a community college program or enter the workforce.
“The level of learning associated with current and emerging technologies found within the workplace quickly becomes sophisticated, with the technologies continuously and rapidly evolving. Considering this, building robust technical and applied instruction for the K-12 student population is critically important,” said David Kenealy SVHEC’s special assistant for research and development.
“This approach establishes a foundation of relevant learning and prepares these students for an ongoing pathway of success educational and workplace. We are privileged to serve in this way,” he continued.