Dorchester Career School prepares students for jobs in demand

Dorchester Career School prepares students for jobs in demand
October 19 08:20 2018 Print This Article

All high school students in Dorchester County have an opportunity to attend the Dorchester County Career Training Center, commonly known as the Career School. Students at Summerville, Fort Dorchester, Ashley Ridge and Woodland high schools have the option to spend half of their school day at the Career School. Transportation is provided from the students’ home school to the Career School and back.

The Career School provides 18 career options on its 32-acre campus in upper Dorchester County. It also has a satellite campus on Trolley Road in Summerville. All of the instructors have significant experience in industry. The school has dozens of business partners, many of whom are quick to hire the graduates, most of whom earn state certification in their career field. The programs have industry-standard equipment, some of which is provided by business partners.

Director Jay Villeponteaux, who was previously a Vice Principal at Garrett Academy of Technology in Charleston County School District (CCSD), said that about 75% of his 400 students participate in apprenticeships with nearby businesses and that most of them who choose to do so get hired by local industries immediately after graduating from high school. In addition to teaching the skills needed to become certified in their career field, instructors at the Career School teach students the “soft skills” needed to be successful in the workplace. Students learn the value of being on time, making eye contact, getting along with others and communicating effectively.

Some of the career options available at the Career School are diesel engine repair, automotive, carpentry, welding, electrical, law enforcement, computer-assisted design, cosmetology, culinary arts, wildlife management, and health sciences. It is the only school in the country with a heavy equipment training program. Students spend several months learning to operate the equipment on state-of-the-art simulators and then go outside to “the pit” and perform real-world tasks with equipment donated by Banks Construction. Graduates of the program can earn starting pay between $17 and $29 dollars per hour. Some students spend a year getting certified in diesel engine repair and a year in heavy equipment operation, making them especially valuable to the burgeoning Charleston-area construction industry. Some students use their career training as a springboard into higher education. Electrical training will help future electrical engineers and health sciences training will prepare students who wish to become nurses, doctors, dentists and veterinarians.

Workforce development experts warn of the “skills gap” in the Charleston area, in which 36,000 jobs remain unfilled because there aren’t enough qualified workers to fill them. The graduates from the Career School can immediately enter the workforce and avoid the mountain of debt that many of their college-bound peers will soon be experiencing. CCSD should look at the Dorchester County approach to career education. Give students the option to take their academic credits at their neighborhood schools and then get career certified at one or more training centers. It would be good for many of our students and good for our local businesses and the economy.