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Schools aid in preparing workforce

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Superintendent says public schools are an often overlooked economic development resource

By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — In service of economic development, Carroll County already has a large and ongoing organization dedicated to preparing an educated workforce — it’s called the Carroll County Public Schools.
Schools Superintendent Strader Blankenship brought that message to the Carroll board of supervisors’ November meeting. He said the division stands ready to provide assistance in economic development efforts.

“I would like to make Carroll County aware of a major push that we see as very important to us in the school system, but also to the county as a whole,” he said. “I want to emphasize to you that Carroll County Public Schools is totally about preparing children for their future.”
As it stands, a little more than a third of Carroll students go to four-year colleges, 37 percent go to two-year or technical colleges and about 23 percent go into the world of work after graduation, the superintendent said.
Examples of how Carroll schools help students achieve their goals include:
• 477 students received 3,745 dual credit hours with Wythe Community College, Blankenship said. That’s a tuition savings of $471,870 for those students based on the WCC rate of $126 per credit hour.
• students have 16 career pathways to choose from.
• students can receive state licensure in cosmetology and nursing aid.
• students have four areas where they can receive industry certifications — building trades, auto mechanics, the teacher cadet program and electronics.
• many students take advantage of career and technical education. In 2012, students earned a total of 365 credentials.
Students have the choice to receive credentials in categories like business administration, government and public administration, health services, hospitality, human services, information technology, public safety and auto mechanics, to name a few.
In five years, 342 students got credentials in information technology, for example, Blankenship said. That means the students with such credentials and certification are leaving high school ready to work.
Educators are making plans to add Firefighter 1, first responder and emergency medical technician training available in the near future, he added.
These are the ways that the schools help with economic development, Blankenship stressed.
“When you are talking to prospective employers or manufacturers as they consider Carroll County as a place to locate and to build, please use the information you’ve got here any way you need to help with that,” the superintendent said. “We would be happy to help.”
Businesses are not going to relocate if they don’t think their staff will have a good school system to send their children to, Blankenship said. Plus, businesses will want a good workforce to draw from.
The information provided by the schools should help county officials sell Carroll as a place that welcomes new businesses.
Blankenship knows that county supervisors and educators desperately want those students who enter the workforce to be “employable upon graduation,” and those who go to technical and two-year schools be able to use those skills in Carroll County for their career and their lifetimes.
“We desperately want to provide opportunities for the 35 percent who go away to four-year colleges and beyond to return to Carroll County for their chosen professions,” Blankenship added. “Our ultimate goal, all of us, would be for all of our graduates to practice their chosen professions, raise their families and retire in the most beautiful place in the world — Carroll County.”
Supervisors Chairman David Hutchins said he sees the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) lab planned for Carroll County High School as another opportunity to prepare students through their education.