CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia educators say apprenticeships, work-based learning opportunities, and simulated workplaces will continue to enhance career and technical education programs across high schools statewide.

CTE instructors met at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center Thursday for the final day of the West Virginia Department of Education’s 2024 INVEST Conference for southern West Virginia educators.

Discussions on apprenticeships and simulated workplaces being used in CTE programs around the state came with the overarching topic of updates being made to CTE standards in the classroom overall.

The INVEST Conference that has been being held in Charleston for four days focused on all educational standard updates for PreK-12 classrooms, however, Thursday was specifically for CTE programs within WVDE.

WVDE Coordinator Angie Gardner said work-based opportunities incorporated into CTE programs provide everything those programs stand for– preparing high school students for a career.

“CTE programs really prepare students for the workforce, they’re career-ready, they learn these skills in high school, so we are providing all of these updates to the teachers out there that are teaching these skills,” Gardner said.

Gardner said with apprenticeship opportunities, students get on-the-job training through real companies while in high school. An example of this is the apprenticeship students at career and technical schools in Kanawha, Putnam and Mason counties are receiving through Toyota.

In a simulated workplace environment, she said the classrooms are set up in a very similar way as an actual workplace setting with students clocking in and out at certain times throughout the day and learning skills they would at a real job.

Gardner said the department of education is now really focused on ramping up these workforce opportunities and initiatives over the next school year.

“You’ll hear more about that, we have a lot of opportunities for students in different programs, healthcare programs they do clinicals, a variety of programs,” she said. “There’s really great opportunity for them to, like I said, do on-the-job training while in class, while in high school they get that real-world experience.”

She said CTE schools are working more than ever on forming partnerships with local businesses to train students in the workplace.

Gardner said these workforce opportunities for students help meet the need the state has in retaining more workers and bringing in more job growth and revenue.

“It really benefits the economy of West Virginia, there’s a need for skilled workers all across the state, and that’s what CTE provides, so these students learning on the job while they’re in school,” she said.

The range of careers the students are training for include healthcare, engineering, IT, culinary arts and more.

Gardner said the future of CTE programs in the state is looking bright.

“CTE offers a really great experience for students to really find their passion and figure out what they want to do when they graduate high school, so we’re excited to build these partnerships with local businesses, offer more apprenticeship opportunities, and help the economy of West Virginia while doing so,” said Gardner.

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