New dual enrollment program to begin this fall

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Students interested advanced manufacturing programs are in luck, thanks to a $179,000 grant the National Science Foundation (NSF) gave to Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC).

The funds are earmarked to start a new dual enrollment program for high school juniors and seniors interested in robotics, engineering, or advanced manufacturing jobs.

The college will accept its first group of 20 high school students beginning this fall into the program that is designed to equip high school students to pursue a variety of career and educational options. Students can take up to 30 credits in the applied engineering field while still in high school. Classes will meet on the PHCC main campus and in PHCC’s FabLab. Topics covered will include mechatronics, robotics, engineering, and hydraulics.

Students will build electric guitars and learn to program robots, according to a release from the college.

Those who complete the program will be eligible to test for the Certified Production Technician national certification, will have finished 60 percent of the courses required for the Siemens Mechatronics Industry Certification and the Advanced Film Manufacturing Career Studies Certificate, and will have only 25 credits remaining to receive a General Engineering Technology Associate Degree.

Nationally, employers name these certifications and degrees as critical requirements for applied engineering jobs, a release stated.

Due to the workforce need, many area employers have pledged to help with the new program, including: Eastman, Alcoa Titanium and Engineered Products (now Arconic), Nilit America. Other community partners include: Henry County Public Schools, Martinsville City Public Schools, New College Institute, and the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research, according to Rhonda Hodges, PHCC’s vice president workforce, economic, and community development.

“I hear all the time from area employers that there is a need for employees who have the certifications, degrees, and critical thinking” skills, Hodges said, and added vacancies in the applied engineering field often remain unfilled.

“We’ve learned from our industry partners that so many great jobs are going unfilled because they just can’t find qualified applicants. We hear from community members that the barriers to education after high school are often too steep. This program will address these two issues head on,” Hodges said.

“Dual-enrollment programs can make such a profound difference in students’ lives helping them realize their academic and career goals by catapulting them into their degrees and saving them thousands of dollars and months of time,” she added.

High school juniors and seniors may apply. The application process will be competitive. For more information or to enroll, contact David Dillard at ddillard@patrickhenry.edu or 276-656-0284.