A $50,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Education will fund a new summer program designed to expand opportunities for students at the Charlottesville Albemarle Technical Education Center (CATEC) to earn paid apprenticeships while they also are earning academic and professional certification credits.
The four week Pre-Apprenticeship PACE program will allow students to gain hands-on experience working with experts in the local construction industry. The program will focus on four areas: plumbing, air conditioning, carpentry and electrical (PACE). Students will be paired with professionals, who will serve as mentors to the students. They also will receive instruction on the Virginia Workplace Readiness Skills as part of their career development training.
CATEC’s Current Apprenticeship Program
Last year, CATEC debuted an apprenticeship program, matching a dozen students with a like number of local companies. A recent change in state regulations allowed students as young as 16 to participate in apprenticeship-related programs.
“We are excited about the opportunities that our new program will produce for CATEC students,” said Dr. Daphne Keiser, CATEC Director. “Not only will this program allow us to expand the benefits of hands-on experience and career development to more students but this is another strong step forward in implementing our strategic plan,” she said. That plan calls for CATEC to work more closely with the business community to meet workforce needs. Many of these positions, Dr. Keiser said, offer both job security and competitive pay rates.
In the current year, CATEC will develop the curriculum and recruit the businesses that will participate in the pre-apprenticeship program
One of those business already is on board. “The youth apprenticeship program is extremely valuable to any student with an interest in the building trades. This program takes this interest and turns it into reality by providing an opportunity to learn something practical in the real world and valuable to not only themselves, but for their communities,” said Nathan Dowdy, the Talent Acquisition Manager for Moore’s Electric & Mechanical Construction. “Completing this program also gives them a leg up on the competition when it comes time to find a company to embark on their career journey,” he added.
Filling an Industry Need
Shannon Tomlin, the school’s Career Center Specialist, who wrote the grant application, noted that “an overall shortage of workers in the construction trades have left contractors in serious need of qualified men and women who can contribute to a business their first day on the job. The average age of many of those presently working in the trades is 55 years of age and older. Introducing young people to the skilled trades industry is imperative if we are to continue our community’s economic growth,” she said.
Students in the pre-apprenticeship program will be able to earn the Workplace Readiness Credential from the Career and Technical Education Consortium of States. They also can test for their Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s OSHA 10 certification online.
Tomlin said the average age of apprentices in the local area is 28 years old but through CATEC’s Youth Apprenticeship Program, a student can become an apprentice as early as their 20th birthday.
CATEC’s current building trades classes are dual enrolled, meaning that in addition to high school credits, students can earn up to 12 college credits with Piedmont Virginia Community College (PVCC). The school also is working on a similar arrangement with John Tyler Community College for budding electricians.
The new program will be available next summer to any CATEC high school student from either Albemarle County or Charlottesville City public schools.