Reprinted from the Gazette-Virginian; Written by Miranda Baines
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Fifty-one high school juniors and seniors from Halifax, Charlotte and Mecklenburg counties successfully completed the 2022-23 Career Tech Academy at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center. The students were recognized in a Monday morning ceremony at The Prizery. CTA Administrator Stephanie Robinson called the students’ accomplishments “amazing.”
“Fifty-one students. Thirty-eight career studies certificates. Two hundred and seventy-five-plus industry credentials earned by these students,” Robinson shared with the audience at the completion ceremony.
The CTA is a hands-on training program teaching high school students the skills they need to land jobs in the high-demand fields of information technology, energy systems technology, automation and robotics, and welding even before they receive their high school diploma. “You guys are at the finish line for the first leg of your race, but never stop learning,” Dr. Chad Patton, dean of career and occupational technologies at Southside Virginia Community College, said to the students.
Patton also challenged the CTA completers to “work hard.”
“Always be the hardest-working person in the room,” he advised.
Guest speaker at the completion ceremony, Linda Green, vice president of economic development and executive director of the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance, assured the CTA graduates that their future is bright. “The No. 1 thing industries are asking for when they come to our region is, ‘How many skilled workers do you have?’” Green shared with the CTA completers. “What they want to know is, ‘What is your workforce pipeline doing to invest in children and students that will be our workforce of tomorrow?’ That’s where you come in.”
Green told the students they are living in a world of continuous technological advancement, with electric and automated cars, and their skills are needed in today’s fast-paced world of innovation in the manufacturing sector.
“This is a fantastic renaissance wherein the nation’s No. 1 technology workforce in Virginia will collide with the skills of a legacy workforce in the manufacturing corridor in Southern Virginia,” Green said. “You have an opportunity that very few people will have ever had, because that collision is saying that skilled workers are the workers that they need in the plants today.”
The economic development expert explained to the high school students that the decision they made to enroll in the CTA and learn workforce-based skills not only will help them attain their own individual career goals but also will help shape the regional economy.
“You took a step that people across the nation are recognizing as a step that will save the United States economy, so we want to applaud you for the decision that you make,” Green asserted.
Green also shared with the students that she worked full-time at Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company while continuing to pursue her educational goals, and her employer supported her as she continued her education. She said the students could have the same opportunity to have industry support.
Several 2022-23 CTA completers received offers of apprenticeships with local employers in addition to earning industry-recognized credentials. One of those students is Tristan Anderson, a junior at Halifax County High School. The Volens resident will start a full-time apprenticeship with Comfort Systems USA MidAtlantic this summer and will continue with work-based learning at the company in the fall.
For Anderson, welding started as a hobby and turned into a career aspiration. The high school student said he started tinkering with the welding machine in his grandfather’s auto body shop and later heard about the welding classes offered at the SVHEC and thought, “This could be something I could be really good at.” It turned out he was right.
“It’s one of the things that makes me feel at peace when everything isn’t going so great,” Anderson said, of his favorite hobby — welding.
Anderson remarked that he liked the welding training at the SVHEC because he was treated “like an adult” and the training made him focus more on his career goals.
“It takes more responsibility being here, actually working toward your goals,” Anderson explained. “You learn skills that you can use in the real world.”
Anderson has an interest in pipe welding and TIG welding and has his sights set on becoming a certified welding inspector one day.