State-of-the-art high school career training center opening next fall

Originally published by Baton Rouge Business Report.

When the new East Baton Rouge Parish Career and Technical Education Center opens on its Ardendale campus next fall, it will enroll some 150 high school students in a state-of-the-art, dual enrollment facility that will enable them to earn a diploma from their regular high school while also receiving workforce training and industry certification in high-demand fields that need skilled workers.

The school, currently under construction next to the McKay Automotive Training Center, has been more than a decade in the works and is the product of a collaborative effort between multiple agencies and organizations.

Officials discussed plans and details for the facility, which promises to be unlike anything Baton Rouge has ever seen, at a luncheon held today by the Foundation for East Baton Rouge School System. 

“This is the best of a public-private partnership, where the city, the school board, the RDA, BRAF, BRAC and BRCC for over 10 years have worked on a dream to change young people’s lives,” said John Spain, BRAF executive vice president. 

It’s hoped the school—a complement to the automotive training center—will lead to additional mixed-use development at the Ardendale urban village. CTEC is modeled after a program in Newnan, Georgia, which realized, years ago, that it was losing young people after high school, even while jobs in that community remain unfilled.

“So they did something that sounds so simple but isn’t—train young people for jobs that exist,” Spain said. 
CTEC plans to do the same thing. The school will focus on job training in four high-demand areas: computer science, skilled crafts, medical and manufacturing. Students enrolled in the school—juniors and seniors—will attend class at their regular high school for half the day, then take classes at CTEC. 

“We will try to map business needs and community needs to student needs,” said Summer Dann, CTEC’s newly named executive director who, herself, is a mechanical engineer. CTEC will also offer “professionalism” classes that help students learn how to find and apply for internships and jobs. 

Though the school will start with 150 students next fall, the facility can accommodate up to 300 students and has room on its campus to expand.

Marketing and recruitment efforts are expected to begin early next year. Dann plans to visit area high schools and their administrators to talk up the program and begin to educate the community. 

Local industry executives, who have long complained about the challenges of hiring skilled workers, say CTEC has the potential to transform the local workforce and the economy.

“In three generations no one has ever communicated like this and connected the dots,” said Turner Industries Executive Vice President Stevie Toups, who attended the luncheon. “If we can get behind this as a community, this is world class stuff.”