By Tim Saunders
Life after high school can be a scary time for teens, who are trying to figure out what kind of job to pursue.
In our changing economy, many career experts are pushing students toward the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math; referred to collectively as “STEM.”
“Not only are they high growth in the number of jobs that are going to be offered, but they’re also high growth in the amount of wages that are going to be available for students,” said Elizabeth Narehood, managing director for the Future Focus Foundation at Virginia’s Region 2000 Partnership.
To help students train for STEM jobs, school and industry leaders in Lynchburg are starting a new academy. It will be a joint effort of the Region 2000 Technology Council and Future Focus Foundation, Central Virginia Community College, the school divisions of Amherst, Appomattox, Bedford, Campbell, and Lynchburg
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“It’s going to be a great way to make our students career bound and career ready,” said Narehood.
Students who apply will get a chance to learn skills for two growing industries: health care and mechatronics. Many companies in Lynchburg need workers who can do those jobs.
“One of the components of the academy is to offer internship opportunities, and we’re going to have a lot of partnership with our local businesses,” said Narehood.
The Lynchburg Regional Governor’s STEM academy will be one of 16 in Virginia. One is currently operating in Roanoke County. When it opens next year, the Lynchburg facility will accomplish Governor Bob McDonnell’s pledge to double the number of STEM academies in Virginia.
The location of Lynchburg’s academy will make it unique. It will be housed on the campus of Central Virginia Community College.
“It’s the first one to be located on a community college campus and it’s the only one that really embraces a number of partners,” said John Capps, president of Central Virginia Community College.
AMTI, AREVA, The Babcock and Wilcox Company, Centra and Delta Star will all work with the Lynchburg STEM academy.
Students from five school divisions around Lynchburg will have access to the program. Because they’ll be taking classes at CVCC, participants will have a chance to earn college credit.
It’s an opportunity that both school and business leaders hope will keep students close to home after graduation.