Trade School Puts Students on Road to Employment

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1 Dale Moore stands at the Virginia Technical Ins4tute loca4on in Altavista. Moore and wife Lisa founded the trade school. Trade School Puts Students on Road to Employment The des'na'on of this two-lane road is not a geographic loca'on. This highway, bounded by white lines with do:ed yellow markings down the center, aims to take students at Virginia Technical Ins'tute (VTI) on a journey to success. Located in Altavista, in the western end of SEC s service area, the trade school s goal is to develop a trained and skilled workforce, while also mee'ng the needs of area industries. It s a road to success for all ages, says Leslie (Tyke) Tenney, the school s execu've director. The stand-alone, nonprofit school s road connects students to classrooms and labs for programs in welding, carpentry, electricity, hea'ng and air, plumbing and industrial maintenance. The road was the idea of Dale Moore, who, along with wife Lisa, founded the school in a former industrial building. Classes began in

2 His vision was to start a school that offered several trade op'ons to develop employees for industrial and construc'on companies in Southside and Central Virginia. Moore is founder and chairman of Moore s Electrical & Mechanical. Rural Virginia is full of the technically gived. I wanted those technically gived students, who may think they don t havewhat it takes, to see that (VTI) as their road to success, explains Moore, who now serves on the technical school s board. Del. Kathy Byron, who represents parts of Campbell and Bedford coun'es in the General Assembly, says Virginia Technical Ins'tute is one of a kind and is important to the area s future. Having these kinds of educa'onal offerings is of cri'cal importance to our region. By increasing the skills of our workforce, par'cularly in fields that are the driving force of economic growth, we make our en're region more a:rac've as a place where exis'ng businesses can expand and new ones can be created, Byron adds. The trade school uses the na'onally and interna'onally recognized Na'onal Center for Construc'on Educa'on and Research (NCCER) curriculum. Virginia Technical is cer'fied by the State Council of Higher Educa'on for Virginia. Gregg Mason, one of the carpentry instructors at Virginia Technical Institute, walks the school s road to success. GETTING A START For students coming out of high school, home-school or from an area college, Virginia Technical is an entry into the trades and developing their skills. The first class all students take covers various tools, safety and cri'cal work skills, things like dressing appropriately for the job, being on 'me and striving to do their best. For many of them, it s their first entry into the working world, Tenney says. The more than 230 full-'me students at Virginia Technical range in age from 17 to 65, says Kyle Goldsmith, the dean of instruc'on. They re from the surrounding area, most within about an hour of Altavista, although Goldsmith has one student from the Blacksburg area who couldn t find the class he wanted any closer to home. For students in one of the six two-year programs, classes are held two nights a week from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Leslie (Tyke) Tenney is executive director at Virginia Technical Institute, which opened in Goldsmith says for students who take the two-year curriculum and graduate, 97 percent land a job. He says for trades that offer journeyman and master levels, VTI s two-year programs sa'sfy the classroom part toward a journeyman card. That s our success, how many people get a job out of here, Moore 2

3 explains. You finish here, you re going to get a job. Goldsmith says America needs tradespeople, no'ng that hundreds of thousands of jobs go unfilled every year. Tenney reports the average age of industrially skilled employees in the country is now 57. He says industries will lose a large number of employees in the next few years. Being in manufacturing for 30 years, I know industry has to look long and hard for qualified tradespeople, men'ons Tom Hudson, one of the school s welding instructors. He says VTI is pufng out graduates who have the basics and can quickly get up to speed on more detailed work. I believe in what they re doing here. More than 250 have graduated from the two-year programs since the school opened. On their way to gradua'ng from the school s trade op'ons are about 100 students from Liberty University in Lynchburg. The Liberty students take courses at VTI that count as elec'ves toward an associate or bachelor s degree. (Top) A student in the plumbing class heats up a piece of pipe. (Bottom) Electricity instructor Aaron Payne makes a point with student Richard Scarce. I love it, Liberty freshman Caleb Thomas answers about his carpentry class. I love working with my hands. AVer comple'ng carpentry, Thomas wants to take welding, get his associate degree from Liberty and have his own business. Another carpentry student also sees VTI as the road to his own business. AVer finishing carpentry, Sco: Weniger wants to take electrical and plumbing classes before embarking on a career of buying, fixing up and selling houses. He likes that he s learning by experience. For me, that s a be:er way to learn. Gregg Mason, one of the carpentry instructors, adds the students are a joy to work with. He says they re curious, enjoy learning, have self-mo'va'on and strive for doing quality work. Mason re'red from Danville Public Schools aver 33 years, much of that as the shop teacher at George Washington High School. He enjoys teaching and his students. If you re a teacher, you re a people person, he says. WORKING WITH INDUSTRY The more than 250 graduates at VTI don t include the students who have taken a semester or two of classes and go:en the skill or 3

4 job they were pursuing, Goldsmith says. Here s where many of the tech school s collabora'ons with industry exist. Virginia Technical Ins'tute works with area industries needing employees with specific skills. Classes for these students are held at various 'mes. The technical school has numerous training collabora'ons with area industries, including Banker Steel, Georgia Pacific, Abbo: and RR Donnelley. Last fall, VTI worked with Amthor, a Gretna manufacturer of tanks for truck bodies, along with the Danville Pi:sylvania County Chamber of Commerce and Pi:sylvania County, to train welders and electrical workers. Hudson taught the welding class for the Amthor students. He likes that VTI has the capability to tailor its classes to the needs of a given industry and that students can focus on the specific program they re interested in or need for a job. Laurie Moran, execu've director of the Danville Pi:sylvania County chamber, reports Virginia Technical was very enthusias'c and flexible in working with Amthor on the schedule and curriculum for the classes, and with keeping up with students a:endance and simula'ng a workplace environment. Twenty-five students went through the classes, and Moran says Amthor and VTI are con'nuing to work together on training more employees for the Gretna industry. Marke'ng Director Brian Amthor says VTI worked with the company to lay out a program customized to its needs. I hope that we ve set the founda'on for exis'ng companies in the area to use their services to create more jobs, explains Amthor, also no'ng the partnership with the chamber and county. Virginia Technical also collaborates with Central Virginia Community College on classes. Goldsmith says classes at VTI are taught by subject-ma:er experts. These are instructors who have both the fundamental knowledge of a trade and the work experience. The trained instructors, along with the NCCER curriculum and the stateof- the-art facility, have been the keys to the school s success, Goldsmith adds. Virginia Technical, which is managed by an 11-member board, gets no government funding. Although it received some ini'al government dollars, the school is now funded through tui'on and dona'ons from b u s i n e s s a n d i n d u st r y. A n industry advisory commi:ee assists with designing classes. Tom Hudson, left, a welding instructor at Virginia Technical Institute, and Kyle Goldsmith, the school s dean of instruction, examine a welding project. With VTI up and running, Goldsmith says he and Tenney are now tasked with promo'ng the 4

5 school and making sure people know it s available. That takes them to mee'ngs in the community and with high school guidance counselors and students. Spreading the name will help bring one of Goldsmith s goals to frui'on. He foresees having dorms for students from across Virginia, even the na'on, to come for classes. Goldsmith worked in the school building when it was home to a former industry, running a stamp press machine for several weeks aver high school. He went on to get a civil engineering degree from Virginia Military Ins'tute and worked for the Federal Avia'on Administra'on, among other jobs away from Altavista. These days, he s happy to be back in that former industrial building in another role. It s purposeful. It s worthwhile. It s making a difference in others lives, which makes a difference in my life, Goldsmith says. For more informa+on about Virginia Technical Ins+tute, visit The school will host the Virginia Industry & Trade Expo in March in its new conven+on space. Navigation: Back to NewsleIer 5

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