Next school year, the Charlottesville Albemarle Technical Education Center will roll out two new academies to launch the school’s recent strategic planning efforts.
On Tuesday, CATEC officials announced during a joint meeting between the Charlottesville School Board, the Albemarle County School Board and the CATEC Board a potential partnership that could see students obtain a variety of Cisco certifications that can lead to careers in computer networking.
“Our employers are telling us that there’s a real demand for these skills and certifications, and by working with Cisco, we’ll provide the training our students need to be employed,” said Steve Koleszar, chairman of the CATEC Board.
The CATEC Board will vote on the proposed plan in December.
Catherine Lee, CATEC’s strategic planning and workforce development officer, said the technical education center would be one of the only Cisco training centers in the region, and noted that the networking field requires many technical skills for which computer programmers aren’t trained.
Currently, Cisco offers five levels of certification — entry, associate, professional, expert and architect — and students can tailor their training to specific fields like operating systems, business or cybersecurity.
Lee said a new staff will be required to teach the courses and that students who complete a certification at CATEC will be able to receive further training at Piedmont Virginia Community College.
Represented on the advisory board — which helps staff develop curriculum — are Cisco, TriShield Integrated Security, the University of Virginia and Albemarle County, among others.
Smith said CATEC’s focus will probably be on Cisco’s first two certifications, and that he hopes to enroll 25 students in the program in the first year.
“The nice thing about Cisco is that they have a curriculum that is developed,” said Craig Smith, CATEC’s dean of academic affairs.
The cost to launch the academy comes with a $310,930 price tag, $211,430 of which is a one-time cost, Smith said.
“It’s possible to do this program on a shoestring budget and put a bunch of computers in a room, but I don’t think that approach is going to attract students,” Smith said. “I think we should make this a real centerpiece of CATEC.”
“To really do this right, it will take some capital. … and that proposal will be coming back in December,” Koleszar said, noting that CATEC also anticipates adult education instruction, which pays for itself.
Adam Hastings, dean of business, mathematics and technologies at PVCC, said the community college also is expanding its information technology offerings, and that there is demand in the field for certified professionals.
Also launching next school year will be the Health and Medicine Academy, which Lee said will now be more closely aligned with PVCC’s curriculum and will provide increased opportunities for students to earn college credit in high school.
To accomplish this, CATEC consolidated the certified nurse aid, pharmacy technician and dental assistant programs into one academy, and they hope to add the emergency medical technician and emergency medical services programs.
The CATEC Board adopted its new strategic plan in March 2014. The plan’s goal is to more closely align curriculum with Piedmont Virginia Community College to better prepare students for middle-skills jobs, which require more education than a high school diploma, but less than a college degree.
To date, CATEC’s enrollment is 238, which is 14 percent lower than last year’s 278.
With respect to CATEC’s facility and a possible move to PVCC, Lee said staff will be monitoring how the first two academies launch.