Highland County Public Schools Plan to Expand CTE Program
Plans are underway at Highland County Schools to expand the Career Technical Education Program. The school already offers business courses and construction and welding programs, but additional options are out there that could be made available for students.
Dr. Drew Maerz is Superintendent of Highland County Public Schools.
“When I came here as the superintendent, one of the things I always thought our schools were uniquely tied to keep the workforce development in one of our forefronts as we developed the opportunities for our students,” says Dr. Maerz. “So, one of the things we are looking at doing is starting an Advisory Council for our Career Technical Education Program to help make sure we have the programs available for our students who would like to have a career after high school that would allow them to stay within the community, if they so choose. So, what we’re looking at is what are the programs we offer within the school, but also what other neighboring education agencies can help our students with those careers and the two that we are talking with are Blue Ridge Community College and also Valley Tech. We’re also having some conversations with Bath County, because they have some different Career Technical Education Programs than we have here in Highland County.”
Dr. Maerz says they are looking at the availability of educational programs for plumbing, electrical, EMT, vet tech, nursing and hospitality.
“When I came here people said, ‘We have some of our skilled tradesmen, they are aging out or they are older and we need to have a next generation,’” says Dr. Maerz. “Well, we don’t need to have ten plumbers. What we need to make sure is we are having a plumber or an electrician or skilled trade craftsman come in on a regular basis every five or so years. We’re going to need to develop those skills in students. Well, we can’t develop a program for one person every five years. So, we need to find programs that are already existing to get the students that opportunity to extend those skill sets and that learning to help them find a career that they are best fit for.”
Dr. Maerz feels that the additional offerings will likely be set up by the 2024-2025 school year. Schedules need to be planned and arrangements need to be made to get students to the other locations. Also, plans are being explored to offer apprenticeships that would provide experience as part of a study program.
“We are in the beginning stages, we are trying to build an Advisory Council for our Career Technical Education in which we would talk with local employers and businesses about how we could build those,” says Dr. Maerz. “We do have some students that do work release, but that could easily be an apprenticeship in which it’s tied with one of the skill sets they gain, so that they would go out and get workforce experience, but also credit. So, if they wanted to do welding through us and then work for a welding company and then later on they are like ‘I’d like to go get my two year degree or my welding certificate somewhere else’, they’d have that career experience that would help those students develop. I get excited by that, because there is opportunity for our students to get real world work experience if we give them the basic tools to get there. So, it’s working with the people in our community to see what are those opportunities available for us and for our students.”
To learn more, you can contact Dr. Maerz at Highland County Public Schools at 540-468-6300.