by ALLISON BROPHY CHAMPION
Culpeper Star Exponent
Technical education training is returning this fall to the George Washington Carver School campus in Culpeper County, and it’s gaining attention from global industry leaders.
Former Culpeper County Administrator Frank Bossio, now with New Pathways, Inc., gave an update Tuesday morning to the board of supervisors about the ongoing project that will establish a machinist training program in a newly renovated building behind the Carver school that educated the region’s black students during segregation and in the ‘90s housed a vocational program.
Bossio said New Pathways would serve as the umbrella organization for other trade and technical training including welding, metalworking, auto mechanics and HVAC. He last spoke to the board a year ago about the proposal that has since gained much momentum.
The resurgence of career and technical education is in response to a changing reality in which technology is displacing many jobs and going to college is more and more expensive, Bossio said.
Employers, in addition, are unable to fill machinist positions due to lack of training.
By 2025, 2 million manufacturing positions in the U.S. will go unfilled, Bossio said, citing a recent study by Deloitte Management Consulting. He said it’s due to a mismatch between employee skills and changing workplace needs.
“We’re trying to provide an outlet for people who don’t want college degrees or have been displaced by technology,” Bossio said. “I think apprenticeships are going to come back in a strong way.”
New Pathways, a nonprofit organization led by an all-volunteer board, including Bossio, is prepared to launch its training program in the fall. An experienced full-time machinist instructor has committed to the position, and will leave his current job at a community college in southwest Virginia to do so, Bossio said.
The local plan to invest again in technical education recently caught the attention of DMG MORI USA, a global tool manufacturer with an international headquarters in Germany. About a month ago, executives with the company came to Culpeper to meet with New Pathways board members, Bossio said. While here, they visited the machine shop of board member Leon Fincher and the Carver campus where a large metal building behind the main school will house the machinist training program.
“When they walked in and saw that building and the fact that the county really had our back, it made an impact,” Bossio said.
The county has committed more than half-million dollars to renovate the building and to get the program started.
As a result of the recent visit, DMG MORI executives invited members of the New Pathways board to its Innovation Days event May 15-18 in Chicago showcasing the latest machines from all over. Bossio said they have even been asked to give a seminar about what has been done to launch the Culpeper technical education school.
“We think this relationship is promising,” he said.
Fincher said DMG MORI is one of the largest tool manufacturers in the world.
“They are very anxious to help us out,” he said.
Fincher commended the board of supervisors for its investment in technical education saying it was the best thing the county had done in the past 45 years.
New Pathways board member Ed Dalrymple said the point of the up-and-coming training program was to allow people to get trained and then get meaningful jobs.
County employee Bill Estes said he’s living proof that such training works. Forty years ago, he completed an electrical apprenticeship at the old Piedmont Vocational School at Carver. Tuesday, he received an award for saving the county nearly $100,000 for his work rewiring a sewer treatment plant that was relocated to the airport.
“This is only one example of several electrical projects Bill has completed for the county resulting in significant savings,” read the resolution presented to him for the QUILL – quality, innovation, leadership and savings – award. “In addition, ‘Uncle Bill,’ as he is affectionately known by his peers, is mentoring and training two other staff members as they take classes to become licensed electricians.”
Estes was surprised with the award presentation at Tuesday’s board of supervisors meeting.
“This is fabulous. It’s outstanding,” he said. “I love what I do with my hands.”
Estes said he worked almost 30 years as a contractor before coming to work for Culpeper County about five years ago. He said his fellow workers had become like family.
“I strive every day to do my best, but am not too proud to ask for assistance,” he said.
In other news from Tuesday’s meeting, the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors: 1) approved a $164.6 million budget for Fiscal Year 2017-2018, a $5.7 million increase over last year due largely to increase in state and federal funding, according to Egertson; 2) approved a real estate rate of .61 cents per every $100 of assessed value, a 5-cent decrease and a fire & rescue levy of .6 cents while all other tax rates stayed the same; 3) approved a $379,775 contract with SW Funk Industrial Contractors of Chester to expand the residential convenience center at the Culpeper Transfer Station and to add scales and 4) approved a $104,619 contract with Dewberry Architects to conduct a space needs study for the courthouse.