From the early school years through higher education, Halifax County schools strive to prepare the next generation of employees for a dynamic workforce. All eight schools from elementary through high school became fully accredited by the state in 2019. The HCHS Robotics team continues to win competitions in national contests. The culinary arts classes reach out to the community in tremendous volunteering efforts including organizing a clothing closet, cooking for hundreds of Halifax citizens during hurricane power outages and preparing and serving meals for the Ronald McDonald House. AstroCamp in Clover, Virginia, spans more than 400 acres, with exceptional facilities and labs. Here, campers can explore physical sciences, the natural world and even outer space. The camp allows children to learn and make lifelong friendships while bonding over a common interest.
Helping students develop financial management and life skills, area businesses are partnering with schools. With a student-staffed office at Halifax County High School, URW Community Federal Credit Union teaches students about work and finance.
Robotics, culinary arts, banking and space exploration are just three careers local students can explore. HCHS students may also take courses in visual and graphic arts as well as cybersecurity.
A highly strategic shift is putting the spotlight on learning that focuses on high-wage, in-demand jobs.
“There’s nothing more important than partnering with the community to develop the workforce,” said Dr. Mark Lineburg, superintendent of Halifax County Public Schools. “We are currently redesigning our high school. We are the lead school division of the first of its kind High School Redesign Grant that involves four school divisions (Henrico, Charles City-County, Mecklenburg and Halifax). Our grant seeks three objectives: to encourage collaborative instructional models, to develop
student advisory blocks and to enhance internships/apprenticeships for students. The redesign grant coupled with Halifax County High School Innovation teams seeks to make student learning more relevant.”
Part of Lineburg’s long-term vision is to broaden educational pathways, ramping up on training and skills development that quickly lead to employment. “We are proud that we have students currently in a number of internships across the county including students working with Comfort Systems, Halifax County Public Schools and Long and Foster Realty.”
“We’re being very strategic about the way we go about this, and instead of teaching in silos, we’re building a program that will be completely interdisciplinary,” Lineburg said. “We’re moving toward a complete, full-career center model. It’s very innovative and progressive.”
Encouraging the new direction, Lineburg and district officials conducted a career and technical education audit.
“It was very important for us to find out what the community wants and needs,” Lineburg said. “We
listened and looked at jobs and offerings and talked to industry to make sure the programs we are offering are matching the community needs.” Under the leadership of Dr. Deborah Woltz, Halifax County High School is moving to establish eight schools-within-a-school including options in business, finance, and marketing; agriculture, food, and natural resources; health and medical sciences; law, public safety, and administration; human services, hospitality, and education; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics; trade and industry; and a School of the Arts. Some classes are being taught in collaborative settings such as biology and fitness as well as English and social studies.
Due to the foresight, planning and generosity of county leaders for many years, Halifax County is quite fortunate to offer post-high school education locally. The Southern Virginia Higher Education Center provides access to higher education, GED to Ph.D. and hands-on workforce training. The higher education center’s community college partners, Danville Community College and Southside Virginia Community College, offer one-year certificates and two-year degrees in high demand areas including health care, business, human services and college parallel. Four-year partners Old Dominion University and Longwood University provide access to a range of bachelor’s and master’s degree programs including teacher education and social work.
Recognizing the need for workers to have in-demand training and credentials, the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center also offers a robust workforce training program. Short-term, hands-on training in heating, ventilation and air conditioning, information technology, mechatronics and welding, is available for adults who want to earn skills and industry recognized certifications in high demand fields. “We focus on getting people enrolled, trained, and into the workforce in less than a year,” said Hope Harris-Gayles, associate director of communications and outreach at Southern Virginia Higher Education Center.
The higher education center also works with regional employers to deliver customized workforce training in incumbent workers.
The Career Tech Academy at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center provides high school juniors and seniors from Halifax, Charlotte and Mecklenburg counties with access to hands-on career training in IT and mechatronics. Students travel to the center five days a week for training leading to high school and college credit, and industry-recognized certifications. Students returning for year two of Career Tech Academy programming take part in a work-based learning experience. Students interview for available positions and are placed with local business and industries where they build their employability skills and apply the technical knowledge gained in year-one courses.
“The Career Tech Academy IT program is a great opportunity to learn how to use more advanced technology and has allowed me to increase my certifications while in high school,” said Eli Evans, a Halifax County High School student in the program.
Adding even more to help prepare employees for the job market, Southside Virginia Community College’s Center for Workforce Development assists employers with economic and human resource development. The center offers seminars, literacy-, apprentice- and customized-training opportunities, consultations, networking and more.
Southern Virginia Higher Education Center features an IT Academy, which provides hands-on IT training for adults. The four-month A+/Server+ training program prepares people to work in a variety of IT positions including a datacenter technician in Microsoft’s datacenter in Boydton, Virginia. This spring, the higher education center will offer a new Fundamentals+ course for people who don’t have an IT background, or who want to see if an IT career is right for them before they invest in the full A+/Server+ course. The IT Academy also offers several advanced courses like Security+, Network+, and, coming this spring, Linux+. The + in the course names indicates they’re aligned with the name of the CompTIA certification that trainees will test for by the end of the course.
Furthermore, Southside Virginia Community College boasts workforce credential programs in areas such as machining skills, nurse aide, welding, truck driving and massage therapy.
Danville Community College provides academic excellence in curriculum leading to a degree or certification in careers offering excellent prospects for future employment. These career studies certificates include advanced welding, culinary arts, EMS, dental assisting and logistics management.
DCC also offers credit and noncredit workforce programs in areas like alternative energy technology, electrical concepts, manufacturing technician, leadership and the like.
With continuous improvement and research into best practices and industrial needs, Halifax County educational centers endeavor to provide the training, education, and guided practice to prepare her citizens for profitable, productive lives in a rapidly changing work world.
By Elizabeth Layne & Hope Harris-Gayles