Like all potential successes, Great Opportunities in Technology and Engineering Careers (GO-TEC) started with an intriguing (and logical) idea. Six educational partners working collaboratively to be both efficient and effective. Those partners made refined the idea, memorialized it, and moved it forward. GO-TEC is the first project to receive funding from GO Virginia Region 3.
GO Virginia was the tool to induce the partnership. “GO Virginia has encouraged those of us who might not have otherwise gotten together to collaborate,” says Dr. Betty Adams, executive director of the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center. “We were able to come together in one room, hash out what the needs are and figure out how we’re gonna work together to get it done in southern Virginia.”
“GO-TEC will provide more options for local graduates to further their education and find well-paying jobs without leaving the area,” says Danville Community College (DCC) President Bruce Scism.
Foundations of Go-TEC
The concept is based on a model originating at Danville Community College. “Originally DCC started a machining program with Pittsylvania County. We made the first year of a two-year degree into a high school dual enrollment program. That was attractive to students — and it worked.”
In the machining model, students could earn more that 40 college credits in precision machining. This would allow them to enter the workforce as entry-level technicians upon high school graduation. An additional year at DCC would add a diploma in precision machining to their resumes.
“That was our model,” Scism says. While dual enrollment has been around for many years, potential partners began to recognize the merit of aligning the curriculum with business needs, and wanted to expand that concept.
“We began to percolate ideas,”Scism relates. “We focused on career areas that are growing across Virginia’s Region 3 and provide higher-than-average salaries. Students often don’t know about these careers or how to prepare for them.”
“We began talking to a couple partners, George Washington High School here in Danville, Patrick Henry Community College and Southern Virginia Higher Education Center in South Boston. These partners became the ‘hub of our spoke.”
From that solid hub grew three more partner spokes, the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research, Southside Virginia Community College and the New College Institute. Through their input and leadership, the scaled-up concept was successfully designed to reflect the unique strengths of the partners and yet remained focused on the outcome of “leading to higher-paying jobs.
The GO-TEC leadership team added other careers to the precision machining program including welding, information technology and cybersecurity, robotics, automation and mechatronics, and advanced materials.
Starting Career Awareness Earlier
“The team also decided to introduce these careers to middle school students,” Scism adds. “That became the foundation of GO-TEC — give the career introduction in the 6th grade and then put a pathway combining both career and curriculum in front of the students and their parents.”
Building career awareness in middle school, Scism notes, allows students to choose relevant high school courses and dual enrollment pathways.
Danville City Schools and Pittsylvania County Schools will serve as pilot sites for GO-TEC career exploration labs.
“We’re already working with curriculum development in Danville and Pittsylvania,” Scism adds. “Once we get the money flowing, we’ll buy the equipment for the labs and bring the staff on.”
Scism believes GO-TEC is an excellent example of public/private partnership, and would like to see the GO-TEC program scaled up in every middle school across Region 3.
“GO Virginia shines a light on regionalism,” says Dr. Angeline Godwin, president of Patrick Henry Community College. “Regions are where people who have similar cultures can come together and bring all their strengths, all their unique assets, everything that makes them extraordinary together, and we’re able to take advantage and leverage opportunities that individually we would not have the capacity to do.”
“There’s a lot of work to be done, but we’re excited about getting started,” Scism says.
How to Navigate the Grant Process
Scism notes that although the process of submitting a grant-winning proposal is “highly complex,” the premise is simple.
“You have to check your ego at the door,” Scism advises those submitting grant proposals. “With six partners working together, we had to think about how to benefit each of our institutions, but more importantly, we had to consider benefits to (businesses in) the region and our students.”
“Stay open and flexible,” says Godwin. “Be courageous enough to listen to the parties that you’re trying to serve. And remember we’re getting a multiplying factor here because when we engage students, we’re engaging parents, their guardians, their family structure, and so it has a multiplier effect.”
The goal, Scism adds, is to develop a highly skilled workforce that will support existing and attract new businesses. “GO-TEC is a win-win for students, workers and business,” Scism concludes.