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Roanoke City Schools and VA Western Partner to Increase Opportunities in Machining

A longstanding Career & Technical Education (CTE) partnership is growing even stronger. This summer, Virginia Western Community College has moved its Machining Program and equipment to the campus of Roanoke City Public Schools’ Roanoke Technical Education Center (ROTEC).

The movement of this program will enhance course offerings for K-12 students and will provide space for adult credentials-based trainings in the evening.

Machine operators and machinists make parts for an array of technology, such as pacemakers and cellphones, as well as planes and bridges. Virginia Western’s courses in Machining provide training from the Fundamentals of Machining all the way to CNC (Computerized Numerical Control) Machining with both mills and lathes. ROTEC will be hosting Virginia Western’s Machining Program, and Virginia Western is providing equipment and instruction.

“Our goal in Roanoke City Public Schools is for students to graduate with both a diploma and a resume of rich skills and experiences. Hosting the Machining Program at the Roanoke Technical Education Center will increase the program’s visibility and increase our students’ accessibility to enroll and benefit from skilled instruction, so they can begin a high-skill, high-wage career when they graduate,” said Dr. Verletta White, Superintendent of Roanoke City Public Schools.

During the 2022-2023 school year, more than 3,800 students were enrolled in and took nearly 6,000 CTE classes. RCPS leaders are excited to double the CTE seat capacity in the 2023-2024 school year with the opening of the Charles W. Day Technical Education Center as additional students begin taking classes this fall. This expansion will allow RCPS to help meet the increased demand from business and industry and provide students with the opportunity to gain experience in Machining.

“Virginia Western seeks to be a bridge between students and employers, to help meet the economic needs of our community while improving students’ employment possibilities,” said Virginia Western President Dr. Robert Sandel. “With this partnership with Roanoke City Public Schools, our Machining Program will provide opportunities to a cadre of high school students who want to take Machining classes, in addition to our current programs for adult students at night. Demand is high for workers with these advanced machining skills, so the employment outlook for students with these skills is strong.”

Machining skills are always in high demand in the Roanoke Valley. Dan Hughes, who is retired from Graham-White Manufacturing Company and serves as President of the Career & Technical Education Foundation Board for Roanoke City Public Schools, has been instrumental in bringing together this partnership.

“I am so excited to see the VWCC Machining Program moving to ROTEC. Manufacturing companies in the Roanoke Valley need to develop more young machinists to meet their current and future needs. Having this program on Patrick Henry High School’s campus will enable more students to gain the necessary training and apprenticeship opportunities to create the workforce of tomorrow,” Hughes said. “As students move through their high school years, top-notch instructors supported by VWCC will create the type of employee that is needed every day in the manufacturing industry. This has been a need for a long time, and thanks to this partnership, it is now a reality.”

Virginia Western’s equipment at ROTEC includes three manual lathes, two ProtoTrak lathes, one Haas CNC lathe, four ProtoTrak mills and two Haas CNC mills. The ProtoTrak machines can use conversational programming or basic programming to automatically do a series of movements. The CNC machines can have the entire part designed in a Computer Aided Design (CAD) program and that program uploaded to the machine to run the part from stock to finish automatically. Equipment moved to ROTEC also includes about 10 Haas and Fanuc controller simulators.

“Our partnership with VWCC continues to grow, and we are so appreciative. Moving the Machining Program to ROTEC will increase students’ ability to learn about this career path and enroll in classes,” said Kathy Duncan, Director of Career & Technical Education for Roanoke City Public Schools. “Our students have shown an increased interest in the program since the announcement was made. This is exciting because it will increase our ability to provide much-needed machinists for employers in the Roanoke Valley and beyond.”

An upcoming Machining Program Open House will allow reporters to view the new space and interview leaders from Virginia Western and Roanoke City Public Schools.

WHEN:               3 to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 15

WHERE:             Roanoke Technical Education Center
2200 Grandin Road SW
Roanoke, VA 24015

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