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Second survey to help choose West Ridge High career technical programs

Rick Wagner • Jan 13, 2020 at 9:30 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — West Ridge High School, to open near Tri-Cities Airport in August 2021, is to have nearly twice the number of career technical education (CTE) or vocational programs than any other high school in the region, according to county school officials.

Sullivan County Director of Schools David Cox and CTE facilitator Aaron Flanary said that West Ridge, promoted during the political debate over funding its construction as a comprehensive high school with a CTE focus, in fact will offer nearly 30 CTE programs compared to about half that many offered today at Kingsport’s Dobyns-Bennett, Bristol’s Tennessee High and Johnson City’s Science Hill.

Sullivan County high schools offer 16 CTE programs as of today.

“We’re going to offer programs no one else in the region offers,” Flanary said of the school, expected to have about 1,650 to 1,700 students.

However, the exact list of CTE offerings is still being worked out, and a second online survey slated to start in February is to help narrow the finalists to the chosen programs. The first two-week survey ended Dec. 6.

Flanary said that the February survey will help narrow 12 finalists for new CTE programs to nine or 10. He noted that the first survey got 780 responses and that he is hoping for 1,500 to 2,000 for the second one. Unlike the first, it will be limited to one participant per email address, and a Sullivan County address will be required.

Already in the works are 18 stand-alone CTE programs already locked in, with 16 of those offered at current high schools, and two more — commercial banking and hospitality and tourism — will be at West Ridge. 

That leaves a list of 12 finalists from which the nine or 10 new West Ridge programs will be chosen. Thus, the total number of CTE programs will be 27 or 28.

WHAT ARE THE CURRENT PROGRAMS?

Current programs moving from Sullivan North, South and Central are accounting, architectural and engineering design, automotive, cosmetology, criminal justice, culinary arts, digital arts and design, emergency medical services, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), engineering, nursing services, horticulture science, mechanical, electrical, plumbing services-HVAC, coding, residential and commercial construction, welding and audio-visual production. 

The latter one has just started at Sullivan North with a former WJHL-TV 11 employee to teach it, and Flanary said the plan is that many games and other activities at the school will be videoed and shown live for those who can’t be there. To make room, North will lose coding for the next school year and a half.

WHAT ARE THE FINALISTS?

The 12 finalists are automation (robotics), aviation flight, business management, cybersecurity, dental technology, fire management services, machine tool technology, mechatronics, networking systems, pharmacy tech, residential electricity and supply chain management.

WHAT FACTORS WILL DETERMINE THE FINAL CUTS?

Flanary said that in considering the final cuts, the factors will be the predicted number of job openings, predicted job growth, wages, stakeholder interest (including survey results and what business and industry need), startup costs, how hard the positions are to fill and postsecondary alignment.

The Tennessee School Boards Association (TSBA) has a data dashboard with CTE career information for all regions of the state, including the First Tennessee Development District area of eight Northeast Tennessee counties.

For instance, the top five career clusters for wages are information technology at $62,153; STEM at $61,203; finance at $52,566; government and public administration at $43,521; and education and training at $42,281. 

As for the most growth over the next 10 years, the information compiled by the TSBA indicates the top five career clusters are health sciences at 5,040 growth over the baseline of 19,400; business management and administration with growth of 4,060 over the baseline of 26,470; marketing sales and service with growth of 2,030 over a baseline of 16,460; hospitality and tourism with growth of 1,980 over a baseline of 18,640; and transportation, distribution and logistics with growth of 1,660 over a baseline of 10,780.

And the top five career clusters in most annual openings over the next decade are hospitality and tourism at 3,584, business management and administration at 3,117, marketing sales and service at 2,502, manufacturing at 1,666 and transportation, distribution and logistics at 1,468.

WHAT ABOUT ODDS AND ENDS?  

Cox and Flanary, answering board members’ questions, said the increased demand for nursing is twofold: An aging population will require more nursing professionals, and as baby boomers continue to retire, replacement nurses will be needed.

BOE Vice Chairman Randall Jones asked about grants, especially to help cover high startup costs for a machine tool technology program. Flanary said those and other grants will be sought.

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