As the 21st-century needs of employers and industries develop and change, educators are making sure the local workforce is ready to meet them.
Three local higher education institutions in particular are developing talent for today’s jobs — and careers of the future — in many different economic sectors. From high school students exploring entry-level health care jobs to adults returning to the labor force or changing careers, opportunities to prepare for meaningful work are more available now than ever. And from this well-educated workforce grows the community’s economic strength.
“We realize that students come to us from a variety of backgrounds and strive to provide multiple entry points to meet their specific needs,” says Robin Griffin Zinsmeister, dean of workforce development, public services and career readiness at College of The Albemarle.
“COA offers 20 different career and technical dual-enrollment pathways for area high school students. These cover pathways in a variety of fields: business, IT, public services, industrial tech, and health care. For adult learners, COA offers over 40 different programs designed to take students from college to career.”
At its Elizabeth City campus alone, COA offers courses in everything from phlebotomy to construction, and medical billing and coding to vehicle inspection. Key COA programs that benefit local employers include computer integrated machining, welding technology, law enforcement training, and nursing and allied medical careers.
“COA has been the leader of health care education for our region for over 50 years with over 26 programs of various levels from short-term certificates to two-year degrees with links to bachelor’s programs and continuing education offerings available,” Zinsmeister says, noting that COA-trained nurses form the bedrock of nursing care in the region from hospital ERs to long-term care facilities.
Elizabeth City State University (ECSU) also works to train students for high-demand area jobs. It is the only institution in the state offering a bachelor’s degree in aviation science, which is vital to the area. Programs in emergency management, health sciences and behavioral sciences help train students for careers, while the Center for Teaching Excellence helps working teachers adapt to the changing demands of today’s classroom.
High school students explore science, technology and math careers through ECSU’s participation in the North Carolina Math and Science Education Network Pre-College Program, which gives extended STEM experiences through special Saturday Academies and a Summer Scholars program. And a vibrant summer camp series offers middle and high school students such career-exploration options as the Summer Transportation Institute and the NASA Aerospace Academy.
Mid-Atlantic Christian University offers two- and four-year degrees, specializing in training for Christian ministry but also offering course concentrations in military training (in conjunction with ECSU’s ROTC program), science teaching and nursing (in conjunction with COA). Its School of Professional Studies is designed for adults beginning or finishing their first bachelor’s or associate degrees either on campus or online.
Learning Options Abound
Local families are fortunate to have several excellent choices when it comes to schools.
Elizabeth City Pasquotank Public Schools (ECPPS) educate 5,700-plus pre-K through 12th-grade students in 13 facilities. The most recent, ECP Early College, launched in summer 2017, is based on the College of The Albemarle campus. Northeastern High School, well-regarded for its Project Lead the Way STEM programs, has recently opened a new robotics lab. In 2015, the system also launched the ECPPS Family and Community Center to build bonds between families, schools and the community.
Camden County Schools, enrollment 1,900, serves Camden County with five facilities. It has a strong Early College High School option giving students a jump-start on earning college credit. It offers Advanced Placement classes, Career Technical Education (CTE) programs and opportunities for gifted and exceptional children. In November 2017, Dr. Joe Ferrell took the reins of the district as superintendent.
Students seeking an intensive STEM curriculum may choose Northeast Academy of Aerospace and Advanced Technologies (NEAAAT). This regional charter school offers hands-on, project-based learning, internships, externships and other innovative opportunities that prepare students for post-secondary education and careers.
Elizabeth City’s private schools, both religious and secular institutions, include Albemarle School, New Life Academy and Victory Christian School.
Groundhog Job Shadow Day
On Groundhog Job Shadow Day, Elizabeth City middle and high school students learn about possible future careers as they visit local businesses and nonprofits. The annual chamber-sponsored event on February 20 took students from five schools to 10 different employers, from medical centers to restaurants to Coast Guard facilities.