Virginia High Schools Focus on Workforce Skills

Lynchburg, VA - Virginia schools want your child workforce ready on graduation day, and they aren't wasting any time. Starting next school year, all freshmen getting a standard diploma must take career-tech classes too. This is state law for all high schoolers.

Right now, the standard diploma students do not have to take career-tech courses like dental hygiene or culinary arts. But an E.C. Glass student thinks the new career-tech mandate is a smart idea.

For Will Dakin, his career goal started with a movie. "Fast and Furious" sparked an interest in cars, but the automotive class E.C. Glass gave him the education he needed.

"I didn't really know how or much about it, but then I took this class and my interest for it kept going, and going and going, until I eventually decided this is what I want to do," said Dakin.

About half of the E.C. Glass students take a career-tech course. For Kevin Latham, it's a school's obligation for the community.

"Part of the education of our students should be that we supply the employees that our society is going to need," said Latham, director of secondary education.

But as it stands now, not all students take these courses. That will change: For next year's freshmen class, all standard diploma students must earn a career-tech credential, anything from getting an industry certification to taking a state licensure exam at the end of the course.

Advanced diploma students do not have to do career-tech, but the option's there.

"We've been talking about this for a long time," said Jay Whitacre, career-tech department chair.

Whitacre believes strongly in the program.

"While we know that the majority of jobs out there in the future, you don't need a college degree to get, you do need something beyond high school. Career-tech fills that void," he said.

For Dakin, his career-tech class has him setting big goals.

"I hope to one day just own my own import-tuning garage," said Dakin.

Another change is that students getting the advanced and the standard diploma must take one online virtual class in high school. The idea's to expose them to an online course before college, where they're becoming more and more popular.

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