The Charlottesville Albemarle Technical Education Center is considering handing over its apprenticeship programs to Piedmont Virginia Community College.
“I think it is a good idea to match career and technical education with higher education,” CATEC director Daphne Keiser said. “That would elevate the trades.”
On Tuesday, the CATEC board directed Keiser to draft a memorandum of understanding with legal counsel that would outline the roles of Albemarle County Public Schools, Charlottesville City Schools and PVCC in administering a combined apprenticeship program.
“The focus is to make sure we have a partnership with our businesses, so they can have a steady pool of students who will go into an apprenticeship program that meets their needs,” Charlottesville schools Superintendent Rosa Atkins said.
Virginia’s Registered Apprenticeships are an employment training model sponsored by businesses throughout the state. Registered Apprenticeships require a minimum of 2,000 hours of supervised on-the-job training and 144 hours of related technical instruction per year.
CATEC currently houses apprenticeships in electrical work, HVAC, plumbing, carpentry and masonry. Keiser said PVCC recently hired a program manager who will oversee the expansion of its own apprenticeship program.
Atkins, Keiser and Albemarle schools Superintendent Matt Haas met with PVCC officials this summer to discuss collaboration on apprenticeships.
The meetings were facilitated by the Central Virginia Apprenticeship Council. The CVAC is a group of local business owners that advises CATEC’s internship program.
Guy Moffat, president of the CVAC, said central Virginia has an urgent need for construction workers.
“We can’t provide the jobs,” Moffat said. “If we do provide jobs, they are coming in from out of town. That’s not good for local [economies], but we can’t find the people to do the work.”
Moffat said it would take five to six months to draft the memorandum of understanding and arrange financing for the combined program.
“We may have to ask contractors for money, and we may have to ask the county and city for money,” Moffat said.
“Everybody is really working hard on this and that’s a phenomenal thing, because we have been trying to do this for 40 years,” he added.
Valerie Palamountain, dean of workforce services at PVCC, declined to comment on the proposed partnership before Tuesday’s meeting.
Enrollment at CATEC has increased during the 2018-2019 school year, according to a report shared at the meeting.
CATEC had 327 high school students enrolled on Tuesday, 56 more than in September 2017 and the highest total since 2012.
Albemarle is sending about 215 students to CATEC this year, a 10 percent increase from 2017. Charlottesville is sending about 90 students, compared with 67 in 2017.
Enrollment in adult education and apprenticeship programs also increased, gaining about 100 students from last year.
Charlottesville School Board member Leah Puryear commended Keiser’s efforts to market the center, including Technical Eats — a student-run food truck housed in an old school bus.
“I think there was a lot of buzz around the food bus,” Puryear said. “I think when it went to Whole Foods, it gained a lot of traction.”