AB Tech Madison Executives Talk About The Importance Of Career And Tech Education
MARSHALL – For the first time since the 2019-2020 semester, A-BTech’s Madison campus plans to open in-person classes from the start of the semester on August 23.
The campus will even unveil a new academic program for the occasion.
The News Record spoke to Fairley Patton, executive director of student council, and Gene Loflin, associate vice president of education, at a Zoom conference on July 21.
According to Patton, the campus focus on providing opportunities for students through its vocational and technical education (CTE) component is more important than ever.
“We have had a very successful partnership with Madison High School in many areas,” Patton said. “One of the partnerships they have in one area is manufacturing at Madison High. It provides students with not only CTE and college courses in high school, but also hands-on learning opportunities in the workplace.”
The college has partnered with industries such as Advanced Superabrasives (ASI), a Mars Hill-based diamond wheel manufacturer.
Starting this fall semester, however, the campus will roll out its agribusiness program.
“What we were looking for was to find pathways that lead to high-demand, high-paying careers in the region,” said Patton. “Of course, agriculture is huge in Madison County. The Agribusiness Program will provide students with the opportunity to obtain cumulative degrees that will eventually lead to an (Associate Degree) in Agribusiness Technology, which will allow them to prepare for a high standard. applying for a career in Madison County. “
Patton said the campus team has made a conscious effort to ensure that its graduates return to work in the county.
“I think he’s focusing on the industry in our area – partnering with them, to find out what the needs are – so that we can provide training opportunities for students to be able to stay in Madison County,” he said. she declared. “We need to find training opportunities for the job that’s in Madison County.”
In Loflin’s view, the process of choosing graduates to return home or work elsewhere is an organic one.
“I think it gives the kids a chance to choose where they want to be,” he said. “I’m going to tell you that when I was a teenager my goal was to get out of North Carolina as fast as possible and see the world, and that’s exactly what I did. But here I am back because that I learned the skills and came back when I was ready to come back.
“What we need to do is give them the skills. Yes they can go for a while, but I hope they will remember how much they love Madison County. Bring back more skills. Maybe they bring back the ideas and create the new industries that build a base for Madison County. ”
There is no shortage of students to acquire these skills. The college’s Career and College Promise program provides opportunities for qualified high school students to accelerate the attainment of certificates, diplomas, and associate degrees.
“The key is to let parents know that there are multiple opportunities for their children to earn college credit in high school for a well-paying career,” Loflin said. “We provide clear pathways for students, so they have the ability to explore possible careers, find those that interest them most and match their talents and skills, and then provide them and their parents with , very clear paths on what they can take towards their high school diploma and what will give them college credits.
“We continue to work with schools in Madison County in particular because you only have the two high schools. We’ve really tried to create strong dual enrollment opportunities, including with the Machining program (Madison High ). ”
Patton said advancements in technology have shaped the discussion surrounding CTE areas such as manufacturing.
“There is a misconception around advanced manufacturing, the manufacturing industry as a whole, that these jobs were dirty,” she said. “This is simply no longer the case. State-of-the-art manufacturing is clean and automated, and in many cases uses robots, and typically in a temperature-controlled environment instead of a hot and sweaty environment. With the significant improvements in technology and automation, it’s a very different experience than it was 15, 20 or 30 years ago. ”
As a result, CTE fields are attracting more interest than in the past, Patton said.
“I think there is (increased interest) in the pandemic in a more pronounced way,” she said. “There is a need for a highly skilled workforce in many areas that we may not have recognized before. Nursing is at the forefront of this, of course, but advanced manufacturing has been crucial in creating the PPE that was needed to fight a pandemic. “
“But more than anything, I think the CTE experience in high school is a great way for students to just test a career before spending all that money on additional training after high school.”
State emphasis on CTE
As the Madison County College campus moves more and more towards greater attention to CTE programs, the state maintains a similar strategic goal of encouraging greater access to post-secondary opportunities.
In February 2019, the North Carolina Department of Public Education released its “# NC2030” campaign, a comprehensive plan to make North Carolina public schools the best place to learn and teach by 2030.
One facet of the plan is to expose and prepare students for careers in the skilled trades, military and other high-demand career fields through the SkillsUSA Career Essentials program, according to the DPI website.
Another goal is to prepare middle and high school students for careers in high technology by expanding computer courses and continuing coding and robotics grants.
In Madison County, this expansion begins with GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs), a national college access initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Education, aimed at increasing the number of students to low income enrolled and succeeding in post-secondary education.
“GEAR UP allows kids to start thinking about their future,” Loflin said. “It’s the motivation to stay on track in school and graduate and persist. GEAR UP will provide Madison County children the opportunity to start exploring their future when they are in college and start taking action while they’re in the middle of school and high school for a future that will create the kind of life they hope for. “
Patton said the program is critical to the transformation of the Madison campus, as it will enable campus managers and members of the Workforce Development team to work with students at Madison County School in leaving college.
“We have focused so much on high school students in our partnership through dual enrollment,” she said. “The sooner we can get this message out about opportunities for parents, families and students, it will be crucial for the success of this.
“If they understand better what they might want to do in high school, they’ll spend less time trying to figure out what it is. They will have a path that will help them get to where they need to be, and they won’t waste time, energy, and money – they will focus. ”