Growth and a positive outlook for the future was the message of the day at a Warren County Career Center General Advisory Committee breakfast held on Thursday morning.
Dr. Darrell Jaskolka, the principal at the WCCC, said enrollment sits at 334, up 40 students from last year. He explained that of all the district's students in 10th through 12th grades, approximately 29 percent participate in Career Center programming.
Several of the center's offerings are at capacity, including pre-engineering and welding in both the morning and afternoon as well as machine technology and electronics in the morning.
"We are drawing students here, and what we are doing has a positive effect on students," Jaskolka noted. This year, six students are participating in cooperative programs with local industry, as well.
While the Career Center's current offerings are thriving, efforts are underway to expand programming to meet the business and industry needs of Warren County.
One of those areas is health care. Jaskolka said that the center is in the infant stages of planning a possible health care program, such as medical technician or nurse aide.
When asked why enrollment has seen a spike this year, he cited a couple of factors.
Jaskolka said the expansion of drilling activities in the Marcellus Shale is "definitely an interest." The other factor? Marketing.
"I don't think kids realize what is going on here," he said. Explaining that the Career Center is now exposing students to Career Center options as early as the fifth grade, Jaskolka said a concerted effort has been made in "making programs more visible to students."
Superintendent Dr. William Clark said the Career Center "is a Phoenix that needs to rise from the ashes. Not that it's bad, but it can be a lot better."
While he explained that expanded program offerings could take several years to fully implement, Clark noted "this administration is going to move different... support this program. (The) enrollment increase is a step in the right direction."
Guidance Counselor John Bonavita said the slogan of the Career Center last year was "this vo-tech is not your parents vo-tech anymore." Citing between 80 and 90 percent of last year's Career Center graduating class has plans for after graduation, he explained that 22 percent of students who graduated last year moved into livable wage jobs, more than 50 percent have pursued post-secondary education, and 13 percent entered the military.
"This year we're off to a great start," said Bonavita. "We feel we're in great hands and we're moving forward."