Chattanooga State offers help for vocational schools - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Chattanooga State offers help for vocational schools

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By David Carroll

dcarroll@wrcbtv.com

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)- Educators and employers say Hamilton County needs to step up its career and technical programs to prepare students for thousands of new local manufacturing jobs.
There are varying opinions on how to accomplish that, but everyone agrees it needs to start happening now.  Chattanooga State president Dr. Jim Catanzaro says his campus is a perfect place to start.

Catanzaro says several local companies often get a bum rap for not hiring locally. "They can't be criticized for it," he said. "You can't invest a billion dollars without a workforce that can truly perform at the highest level."

Hamilton County schools provide vocational classes in several high schools, but teachers admit it's a struggle to stay current in the face of rapidly changing technology.  Still, they hope their individual programs will remain in place.

Dr. Bill Wiencke, director of Career and Technical Education at East Ridge High School says, "I teach computer aided drafting (CAD), and it's very important for students interested in engineering or architecture. We're sending students on to some great colleges, so while we consider adding on to what we have, let's not disrupt what is already working well."

Dr. Catanzaro says the time has come to get serious about a vocational school on the Chattanooga State campus. "I think we really need to centralize vocational programs for high schools and connect with the technical programs already here at the college."

He says the staff is already in place, with the expertise to satisfy new employers' needs. He points to the college's Volkswagen Academy at Enterprise South as an example of partnerships already established. He says a new addition at Chattanooga State would require a building, but land is readily available near current facilities.  He says he welcomes the chance to "get serious" about such an addition, because "bright students need a place to learn at the highest level."

At East Ridge High, where only students zoned for that district can attend, Dr. Wiencke says he can see some benefits of a centralized vocational school at a location such as Chattanooga State. "If there was a centralized school, students wouldn't have to worry over school district boundaries.  Right now you have to live in the East Ridge zone to come to our school, unless you get special permission.  And I know we have programs that would benefit so many students countywide."

Newly elected District 8 Hamilton County Commissioner Tim Boyd said vocational education is among his top priorities, and now's the time to make a move.  Boyd says, "There is enough momentum among businesses and community leaders.  We really need to get the dialogue started before it's too late."

Mike Evatt, recently elected to the District 9 School Board seat, calls himself "a product of vocational education, and proud of it." He says, "I would welcome a partnership with Chattanooga State.  That's a site that is centrally located in the county, and we've got to make some progress in vocational education.  We can't sit still with everything that's opening up around us."

Superintendent Jim Scales released this statement. "One of the things we have to do to expand Career and Technical education is to look at what is feasible, what is practical, what is needed and what students are interested in. We need to use our data to see where our programs are headed, what programs are needed and what it would take for students to complete any new programs.

 

One of the best ways that we are looking at enhancing CTE programs is to partner with Chattanooga State Technical Community College. We are currently exploring this option through discussions with Dr. Catanzaro and his team.  Last year, in partnership with CSTCC, we expanded the Middle College program to contain two concentrations: liberal arts and engineering/technology.

 

We will continue to explore opportunities to add additional career and technical programs at our comprehensive high schools. Our Director of Career and Technical Education also continues to work with the principal of Sequoyah High School to review programs there and see how we can best serve the needs of our community and students."

 

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