Tech academies need support

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 29, 2007

Applause! Applause!

On Nov. 16, Gov. Tim Kaine announced plans to financially support the opening of six Governor’s Career and Technical Academies in Virginia. This decision drew great support and comment from business leaders and it is to be highly commended.

These curriculums, once in place, will emphasize science, technology, engineering and math. Competition for these academy designations and the start-up seed money of $120,000 each will be fierce, and as well it should be.

The need for such student training and preparedness to assist the needs of our state’s business and industry has been documented over and over again.

Workforce Investment Boards, such as Opportunity Inc., which serves the greater southwestern Tidewater area (including Franklin, Southampton and Isle of Wight), has been a strong proponent of expanding this type of training and educational opportunity.

Here in the Franklin and Southampton area the need is great to assist our existing business and industry.

In just about every visit to our existing industries by the Franklin Southampton Business Support Team we heard this same request: “We need skilled and qualified employees especially in the technical job areas”.

In addition, we heard employers tell us that potential employees also need more “soft skills” as well to complement the science, math and technical requirements. Those people skill areas include oral and written communication abilities, team- building skills and understanding the work place environment.

Keeping our local school districts engaged in this issue of increased emphasis on the career and technical area is also an ongoing activity. We have encouraged a continual dialogue of our area school superintendents and their staffs to talk more about additional career counseling for those students that are best suited in a potential technical career vs. a four-year college degree program.

Hopefully, the Secretary of Education, Thomas R. Morris ,and state Superintendent of Public Instruction, Billy K. Cannaday, will see the wisdom in their decision process to select a Governor’s Career and Technical Academy location for the Hampton Roads Regional area.

The only concern noted was in the Richmond Times-Dispatch news article about this announcement, where it was reported some larger Richmond area county school systems envisioned the academy only available to their individual county’s students.

Perhaps a career program of this importance needs to be spread among several geographic areas and should be located at a regional education center allowing students from several school districts the opportunity to attend. Possibly locating these academies at our state community college locations is the best choice. This will allow for regional participation and promote regional cooperation.

John J. Smolak is president of the Franklin Southampton Economic Development, Inc. He can reached via e-mail at