Rockbridge County High School expands vocational programs, renovates training center

By Lily Mott

This story contains a slideshow.

Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs at Rockbridge County High School are expanding to meet employers’ needs for more skilled labor.

The expansion requires a $7.7 million overhaul of the existing Floyd S. Kay Center, located next to the high school. Rockbridge County Chief Business Officer Randy Walters said everything, including the plumbing, electrical and mechanical systems, will be renovated by the 2024 school year.

The project is funded by bonds and loans.

The vocational training programs started to expand two years ago to meet the Virginia Department of Education’s work-based learning standards. Now the “building needs to be completely renovated and brought up to modern times because of the workforce readiness program that we have,” Walters said.

Rockbridge County Technology and Career and Technical Education Paige Owens says that the goal is to get a lot more kids involved in the program to help students figure out their goals in life and what they want to pursue. Plus, the new programs also help the local community with shortages of employees and workforce.

Students can choose to work in one of 43 different local businesses as a part of their work-based learning. Other opportunities include EMT training or event planning.

One workplace is within the school division, which has faced shortages of maintenance workers. Four interns from the CTE Program do landscaping, maintenance, plumbing and diesel mechanics at the bus garage.

“It’s been a huge success, and a huge benefit to my department,” Walters said.

The CTE program hopes to partner with more businesses. The renovated Kay building will include a community center with a gathering space for large groups and small conference rooms.

“I would like to see this CTE building become more of a center for the community to come in and learn new things,” said Kathy Burant, a member of the Rockbridge County Public School Board.

The new building was designed to encourage students from Mountain Gateway Community College, business partners and other members of the community to visit and participate in events at the center.