CATEC’s DIY Day celebrates past as center primes for future

The Charlottesville Albemarle Technical Education Center Saturday invited the public to see future masons, cosmetologists and mechanics at work.

The occasion was the first annual DIY Build Off Expo, in which CATEC welcomed the community to witness the work its students conduct on a daily basis.

“So often, I find myself telling people about what we do in Career and Tech Ed rather than encouraging them to get involved,” said Adam Hastings, Director of CATEC.  “That involvement, that real feeling of a tool in your hands and a project before you, is what makes our kind of learning so special.”   

Cheyenne Worley, an 11th grade Cosmetology student, said she values the hands-on learning experience CATEC offers.

“It’s easy to just zone-out in the classroom, but paying attention is easier when I’m in motion,” Worley said, noting that her program has reinforced acting and dressing professionally.

Isabelle Montoya, also an 11th grade Cosmetology student, said the program is preparing her for future studies.

“It’s fun, and it gives me an opportunity to start studying what I’m passionate about early, so I can go to college already knowing how to do something,” Montoya said.

Rich Fletcher, a Green Technologies teacher, said females can often succeed in the building trades because of their critical thinking and management skills, and so he’s glad to see 10th grader Wesli Scott studying Masonry.

“I come here to learn, and I know that job experience can help,” Scott said, adding that she enjoys knowing that females can do the same work males can.

Fletcher said Scott is already learning the skills necessary for a career in construction, such as computer-aided design and materials research.

“It’s okay to go to college,” Scott said, “but since I’ve learned so much here, I can just go and do something.”

That ability for young people to learn a technical skill before finishing high school is one CATEC is tackling head-on.

In March, the CATEC Board adopted a new strategic plan and approved the formation of a steering committee, which, Hastings said, consists of representatives from CATEC and Piedmont Virginia Community College.

While Saturday’s event was unrelated to the strategic plan—which will see CATEC and PVCC collaborate across five new institutes that will transition students from one school to the other—Hastings said the group is making progress.

“We’re working together to figure out this big picture partnership,” Hastings said. “We’ve been very successful there.”

The institutes, which will serve both high school and adult students, include: Skilled Trades, Customer Service, Early Childhood Education, Healthcare Services, and Manufacturing and Information Technology.

So far, Hastings said the steering committee has done a lot of work with Manufacturing, Customer Service, and Early Childhood Education.

“We’re starting to establish a list of the job requirements that [manufacturers] are looking for industry-wide in our region for employees so that we can build out that career ladder and match it to a training ladder,” Hastings said. 

Additionally, Hastings said, the committee has met with representatives from the Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning at the Curry School of Education to discuss Early Childhood Education. The committee is also working to expand the definition of customer service to include event planners, caterers and linen providers, among other roles.

“All of those various and sundry jobs and roles in organizations that expand into the broader arena of customer service,” Hastings said.

The CATEC Board will meet again on May 20thwhen they’ll discuss how the technical education center can realize the strategic plan’s goals, as well as CATEC’s facilities.

“We do a lot of great work here, and that needs to be celebrated,” Hastings said. “While we’re moving forward, we need to still be in the process of continuing the great work that we’re doing now.”