Lowell resident Nathan McNabb attended the Washington County Career Center in high school, studying industrial mechanics.
The next year, he returned for adult training in a millwright class on a scholarship from the Mid-Ohio Valley Maintenance Council.
"I figured it was a good way to open a lot of doors, having that on the resume," he said.
Students in the Washington County Career Center’s adult medical assistant class practice taking each other’s blood pressure.
submitted by the
Washington County Career Center
McNabb said he gravitated toward the career center in high school because he was "more of a hands-on kind of guy." Both of his experiences were positive ones.
"It's nice to have a place like that where you can get some hands-on training in stuff the industry needs," said McNabb, who now works at DuPont's Washington Works plant in Wood County.
The career center is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year as it continues to works to serve both adult and high school students and the community.
By the numbers
257 - Incoming juniors expected to attend the Washington County Career Center in the 2012-13 school year.
35 percent - Percentage of the total junior class in the county expected to attend the career center in 2012-13, an all-time high even though enrollment in county districts has generally been declining.
15 - Number of career and technical programs offered to high school students.
24 - High school academic courses offered.
43 - Number of adult technical training programs offered.
40 - Years since the career center began.
Source: Washington County Career Center.
"Most of our students are going to live and work in this local community ... so we want to make sure we're developing skills to allow them to be successful in local jobs and businesses," said Dennis Blatt, secondary director at the career center.
The career center was formed in 1972 in cooperation with educators and local business, and that partnership remains in place today.
"We're in constant communication with the departments that are related to what we do here," said Al Lang, owner of Greenleaf Landscapes in Marietta. "If (the instructors) know they've got a student that fits what we need, they'll be calling us so we can interview them."
Lang said half a dozen career center graduates work at his company, and he's a member of the advisory committee for the horticulture program. There are advisory committees for each of the academic programs at the center, so instructors can keep up with the evolving needs of local industry.
Blatt noted that's not the only focus on the high school side. Some people may still see career and technical education as a path leading somewhere besides college, but he said the skills needed to enter the workforce and go to college these days are quite similar.
"We believe that we can help students go on to further their education but also develop pathways that are going to take them on to some pretty viable careers," Blatt said. "Career technical education really prepares students to succeed in further education and careers."
In addition to training in career paths such as masonry, computer graphics, medical office technology, welding and diesel truck mechanics, the career center offers advanced placement English and math and chemistry classes that provide both high school and college credit.
"Our academics are very rigorous here," Blatt said.
Communication with local business and industry is also key to the adult training side of the operation, said David Combs, adult technical training director.
"That's how we really develop our programs," he said.
The career center has recently added a number of new adult training programs to meet local needs and demand, including chemical operator classes in 2010 after the chemical industry projected 700 jobs would need to be filled locally in the next few years as more and more baby boomers retired. More than 60 people were enrolled in the classes at three locations this winter, and the center received a $1.1 million grant from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services to help companies pay for some of the training.
More recently, with the expected oil and gas boom as a result of interest in the Utica shale formation, the center has added a heavy equipment class and a commercial driver's license course. The new cosmetology program started last week. Combs said that was done in part to fill the void left after the Valley Beauty School in Parkersburg shut its doors in August.
The ability to meet the needs of businesses in a timely fashion is a testament to the effort of the center's staff, the rapport they've built with local companies and the results they've had in the past, Combs said.
"If they need training, they pick up the phone and give us a call," he said. In many cases, "the company helps design it, we implement it, and then we turn out the student for the company to hire them."
Some companies also rely on the career center to train existing employees. Solvay Advanced Polymers has taken advantage of such training in the past, said Tim Best, maintenance/compliance lead with the Ohio 7 plant.
"We're very, very satisfied with the product they deliver us," he said. "We've sent several people through the career center."
In many cases, the adults coming to the career center have lost jobs and are seeking training for new employment. Retraining those workers not only benefits the community by helping them find employment, it keeps them from leaving the area, Combs said.
"If they're able to get jobs locally, then they're able to stay in the community and be a part of it," he said.
The career center also works to aid the community through projects done by its students for organizations like the Marietta Family YMCA, food pantries, schools and churches, Combs said. He noted adults in the advanced construction program often work with the Habitat for Humanity chapters in Washington and Wood counties. Some continue serving with the group after completing their time at the center.