Culpeper Star Exponent

Burgeoning vocational trade programs on the George Washington Carver School campus in Culpeper County just received a tremendous financial boost.

Included in the recent round of $1.1 million in GO Virginia state grants were the New Pathways Tech machinist training program, receiving $100,000, and the American Institute of Welding, receiving $126,300.

Both entities are located in buildings behind the main Carver school, where local African-Americans received their education during Jim Crow. The welding program recently began offering classes and New Pathways will launch its first course Monday in computer numeric controlled machining in partnership with Culpeper County and Germanna Community College.

“This project represents an innovative collaboration between local governments, the community college, nonprofits and private businesses,” said Culpeper County Administrator John Egertson. “GO Virginia has provided us a platform to leverage these partnerships into a project that will have a positive impact on the entire region.”

Retired Culpeper County Administrator Frank Bossio is among those who has long advocated for returning vocational training to the Carver campus, and helped form the broad partnership that led to New Pathways. It is a nonprofit incorporated in 2016 by a group of industry professionals, government officials and forward-thinking individuals.

Culpeper County invested $400,000 to renovate the building in support of the project.

“People in this community invest in this community,” Bossio said of the program during a presentation he gave on New Pathways at the recent State of the Community. “Culpeper is always ahead of the game.”

The GO Virginia state grant, intended to boost workforce development initiatives, will be used at New Pathways to purchase various pieces of training equipment the program would otherwise have had to lease. New Pathways Board President Sue Hansohn, in a letter of support, said the program is envisioned to become a premier vocational training facility in the Piedmont region.

“New Pathways Tech is positioned to train machinists in a professional field with a great demand and promise for future employment,” she said.

The machinist program has partnered with the global machine manufacturer, DMG Mori, to conduct advanced training on their machines. The company, based in Germany, will have a showroom in the local facility.

Leon Fincher, owner of Culpeper-based Precision Machine Works, has been a major supporter of New Pathways, including donating machinery and time. For the past several years, his business has tried to hire as many as seven skilled machinists, but with no luck.

“New Pathways will give us an additional source to recruit students to fill those positions,” Fincher wrote in his letter of support for the grant.

Grant funding for the separate American Institute of Welding at Carver will pay for shop improvements including a new boiler and doors as well as bathroom, classroom and office renovations, an epoxy floor, ventilation system, electrical upgrades and bay lighting. The money will also be used to purchase 10 combination welding machines.

According to the grant application prepared by Culpeper County Special Projects & Grant Administrator Laura Loveday , the George Washington Carver programs represent “an important talent development initiative” for the rural counties of Culpeper, Fauquier, Madison, Orange and Rappahannock counties. The application predicted that investing in the programs could fill or create up to 1,482 jobs over the next 10 years.

“Both the Region 9 Council and the GO Virginia State Board recognized that this project responds to employer demand and demonstrates strong collaboration within the region,” said Brian Cole, chairman of the Region 9 Council, in a statement. “To grow our region’s economy, business, education and government must work together.”

In a related story, the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors Building & Grounds Committee recommended at its meeting Tuesday that the George Washington Carver School be renamed, The Carver Center. The shortened name will serve an umbrella for all the organizations currently using the campus in some capacity including the alumni association, agricultural research center, food enterprise center, Virginia State University, 4H, Stone Soup and Rapidan Master Gardeners.

Supervisor Jack Frazier said he received no phone calls about the name change for the school already known by locals simply as, Carver, named for the renowned African-American botanist and inventor. The committee also reviewed signs to reflect the name change, and will decide on one at a later date.