County schools launching new CTE course in robotics

Published 3:29 pm Thursday, August 9, 2018

After two years of seeing success with a robotics team at Happy Valley Middle School, Carter County School System officials are launching a new career technical education course of study in the field of robotics.

“We felt like there was a need to make this investment in the program,” said Mickey Taylor, CTE Director for the Carter County School System.

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While the program at the middle school level was more of an extracurricular club, at the high school level, it will be a curriculum based program of study under the CTE umbrella.

“This will be a class for credit,” Taylor said.

Students will be able to select robotics as their course of study just as with other CTE programs such as welding, collision repair, agriculture, or health occupations.

For the inaugural year, the program will be taught in only one period.

“Next year we will need to expand it to offer a second part for the students who are in it this year and also open it up to more students,” Taylor said.

For many of the school system’s CTE programs, high school students can take advantage of the transport option to participate in CTE classes not offered at their high school. For example, students at Hampton who want to study collision repair can transport to Unaka to participate in that program. That option will not be available for students wishing to take part in the robotics program this year, according to Taylor.

“This year it will not be a transport class due to it being year one, and only being taught one period,” Taylor said. “When it goes full blown and taught two periods or more we will open it up and transport. Students who transport are at the school they transport to for two periods.”

According to Taylor, the CTE programs, like robotics, help provide the students with the skills they need to obtain a career or continue their education after graduating.

“There is a need for skilled labor all across the country,” Taylor said.

In July, President Donald Trump signed into law legislation designed to give a boost to career technical education programs. The Perkins CTE Act provides nearly $1.2 billion of grants to states to train students and workers.

U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, M.D., was one of the co-sponsors of the legislation on the House side. That need for skilled labor Taylor referred to was one of the driving forces behind the legislation according to Roe.

“The number one thing I hear from employers across East Tennessee is that they have good-paying jobs available, but can’t find workers who have the necessary training or soft skills to fill them,” Roe told the Elizabethton Star. “The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act reauthorization encourages community partnerships and engages employers to help provide training opportunities that match available jobs.

“The Perkins CTE Act reauthorization shows Congress’s bipartisan commitment to helping all Americans, not just those who are college-bound, find a job that can support their families by offering better, skills-based learning opportunities,” Roe added. “I was proud to be a cosponsor, and I’d also like to thank Senator Alexander for his steadfast leadership on this issue in the Senate.”

Taylor said the school system has not received word yet as to whether or not they will get any additional funding as a result of the Perkins CTE Act.

“We hope that is something we do see,” Taylor said. “This year’s funding, as it stands, is about the same as last year.”

“The CTE program is an expensive program because you have to buy the supplies and things for the students, but I think you get a good bang for the buck,” he added.