A year ago, the GO (Growth & Opportunity) Virginia Board approved $648,000 in funding for Great Opportunities in Technology and Engineering Careers (GO TEC) phase 1 activities in the Region 3 counties of Charlotte, Halifax, Mecklenburg and Pittsylvania and the City of Danville. The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR), a proud partner, shares first-year successes of this quickly progressing project.
What is GO TEC?
GO TEC, a multi-phase project, will build a regional training system, beginning in middle school, for targeted career paths. Phase 1, currently in progress, aims to increase the number of students entering precision machining; welding; IT/cyber security; robotics, automation and mechatronics; and advanced materials. GO TEC leadership partners include Danville Community College, IALR, Southside Virginia Community College, the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center, Patrick Henry Community College and the New College Institute.
Dr. Julie Brown, Interim Director of GO TEC and IALR’s Director of Advanced Learning, has supported K-12 partners’ successful launch of pilot Career Connections labs at Danville Public Schools’ Westwood Middle School and Pittsylvania County Schools’ Chatham Middle School for the 2018-2019 school year. Specialized equipment was installed, faculty were trained and curriculum was developed and implemented. Students now spend time in the labs as part of their exploratory elective classes, experiencing coding exercises, a welding simulator, robotics projects and other hands-on learning opportunities that introduce them to fields about which they otherwise may have learned very little.
While the Career Connections labs within Westwood and Chatham middle schools are part of a pilot program, the goal is to eventually integrate such labs and curriculum within the middle schools throughout the GO Virginia Region 3 footprint. Pathways will be developed using a “hub and spoke” model. Each GO TEC higher education partner will provide focused training within the targeted pathways as either a hub (providing mastery level training) or spoke (offering base skill training). The middle school Career Connections labs, a spoke, expose students early to career fields so they may take advantage of expanded career and technical courses and dual-enrollment program opportunities in high school.