Education leaders from the region participated in a Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce Workforce NOW panel discussion at Germanna Community College Tuesday on dealing with the needs of local students.
Dr. Janet Gullickson, the new president of Germanna, said one of the college’s primary goals is “closing any gap K-12 students may be falling through.”
She pointed to training in CORE craft skills. “CORE helps students go directly into apprenticeship programs. The beauty is it allows students to earn while learning.”
Caroline Public Schools superintendent Dr. George Parker III said that county’s system is working with Germanna on CORE crafts and Dual Enrollment and “employing more people from professional roles in classrooms.”
Parker said it’s a challenge for a small school system in a rural area to meet the CTE needs of students. “It’s a challenge we’ve taken head on,” he said. “We’ve identified partnerships with local businesses for apprenticeships, internships and job shadowing and are working with Germanna.”
Dr. Robert Benson, superintendent, King George Public Schools, said Dual Enrollment and nursing training are important there.
Dr. Scott Baker, superintendendent of Spotsylvania Public Schools, said that system is seeing “tremendous growth” in CTE training for students with special needs.
Baker also said the system is: “trying to develop our program to be about what you can do. High school becomes a place of choice depending on what you specialize in. By the time they get to ninth grade, there are so many pathways they can pursue.”
“We need not only to look at what skills students need today, but what they will need 10 years from now,” said Dr. David Melton, superintendent of Fredericksburg City Public Schools.
Germanna’s Gullickson said cybersecurity is an example of a field we know will be booming years from now and that GCC is expanding training options to include a cybersecurity degree: “Most businesses do not employ people right unless they have a variety of skills. And having some expertise in cybersecurity is a valuable tool to have in your kit when you apply for a job. In the Commonwealth alone there are over 20,000 jobs open now that require some level of cybersecurity training.”
“The reality,” she said, “is that occupations will change and demands will change.”
Dr. Troy Paino, president of the University of Mary Washington, noted that UMW will begin construction of new science building in the next couple of weeks. He said the university wants to help the region cope with a teacher shortage. “Mary Washington started as a ‘normal school’ preparing teachers and we’re doubling down on that mission,” he said.
Paino said he realizes the region is “changing rapidly—and we’re trying to adapt. We need to adapt to meet a lot of needs of our changing country.”
Paino said Germanna and Northern Virginia Community College are UMW’s “biggest feeders of transfer students and that number is going to increase. I look forward to working with Janet to make that a seamless process.”
Of the impact tech tends are having on education, Dr. W. Bruce Benson, superintendent of Stafford Public Schools, said: “The bottom line is having a great teacher, whether it’s cyberspace or brick and mortar space … tech is great but unless we ask our young people to do things that are at a higher level of cognitive demand you don’t get more … it becomes a more expensive version of a chalkboard. There are times when we should set tech aside — we want our kids to be creative think critically— in what century was that not important? Let’s use the tools available but make sure we concentrate on what we are able to do with those tools”