Yadkin Valley Regional Career Academy Helps Shape the Future

On Thursday, December 8, 2011 - 12:06

Davidson County high school students will have an alternative, innovative approach to education and job preparation with the startup of the four-county Yadkin Valley Regional Career Academy.

“We are equipping our students with the skills that will enable them to succeed in this global economy,” says Barry Sink, co-chair of the initiative’s steering committee. “We're equipping them with 21st-century work skills, things like teamwork, communication, creative problem-solving, critical thinking. We’re equipping them with entrepreneurial skills, and we’re equipping them with STEM science and math skills that are so desperately needed.”

The career academy, targeted to open in 2012, will have a fifth-year option for an associate college degree, and students could move on to a four-year university. Campuses are planned in Davidson and Surry counties.

Organizers hope to convert a deserted big-box store into a business setting for the south campus, although it may start out at a school. The principal’s office would be “corporate headquarters,” the library “research and development,” and the hallway Main Street – with no bells.

With state, federal, industry and private foundation funding, the school expects to build the workforce to support growth industries in the Piedmont Triad and attract new business. Furniture and textile manufacturing moved off-shore, but advanced manufacturing and global logistics are among industries needing skilled workers, Sink says.

It's almost “a career academy on steroids” by adding science, math and technology skills, and organizers aren’t aware of any others that include entrepreneurship, Sink says. As a recent example, he says, if a computer factory moves to Mexico, workers will have skills to move to another arena of technology growth – or launch their own business.

State leaders are eyeing it as a model to “help invigorate economies throughout rural North Carolina,” Sink says. There will be a strong outreach to families with first-generation college students.

Davidson County Community College's Green Home

Davidson County Community College is also concentrating on advanced manufacturing, robotics and logistics with its students, and completed a Green Home renovation in 2011 to focus on sustainability.

“It’s sort of like the buzzword right now, when we talk about green and sustainability, but our students are getting the first-hand experience so when they do go out to the job market they can say in their conversations ‘I’ve done this,’” says Dr. Mary Rittling, DCCC president.

The two-year college’s foundation purchased a home across the street for DCCC to use new technologies. The school's heating, ventilation and air conditioning program was involved in choosing energy-efficient insulation and the HVAC system, and had input into the architect’s plans. Vendors showcased products at an open house; the home is housing three international students at the commuter college.