It’s no longer just about the degrees an individual has, but it’s more about what skills he or she can provide to a business that will catch the eye of today’s employers.

That’s the message Career and Technical Education (CTE) Coordinator Debra Woltz has pushed since she started in the CTE position last year.

With the nationwide push for career and technical education comes changes for students at Halifax County High School during this upcoming school year.

Juniors this school year will be required to have at least one certification earned in one of the CTE classes to graduate with a standard diploma.

However, CTE certifications are not necessary for an advanced diploma, but Woltz is suggesting all students earn a certification as a precaution.

“Let’s say a student is in the second semester of pre-calculus, and they fail. If they don’t have their certification, not only will they not receive their advance diploma, but they won’t graduate,” Woltz warned.

Upcoming seniors also are being encouraged to take these STEM-H related courses, and all students are urged to earn as many certifications as they can.

CTE classes cover STEM-H courses. STEM-H stands for science, technology, engineering, math and health.

The CTE program began with vocational classes, but over the years it has expanded to encompass new innovative technology to help continue teaching students up-to-date skills necessary to successfully gain an occupation in their field or to continue on in their study at the college-level, according to Woltz.

At the high school, there are more than enough different types of courses from which to choose.

In the agriculture department, courses include small animal care classes, equine management production, horticulture, greenhouse crop production and small engine repair.

Automotive and motorsports technology courses also are available.

The business and information technology department offers personal finance, finance, accounting and advanced accounting, business law, business management and computer information systems and advanced computer information systems.

The drafting program is a two-year dual enrollment program with Danville Community College and Southside Virginia Community College that teaches students skills such as lettering, geometric construction, technical sketching, orthographic projection, sections, intersections, development and fasteners.

The family and consumer sciences department offers dual-enrollment classes in both child care and fashion design.

The graphic design program, an offering between DCC and HCHS, provides students the unique opportunity to learn 21st century design and digital media skills in an intimate college setting.

The health and medical science program has much to offer students providing introduction to health occupations, CPR and first aid and medical terminology.

The high performance technology program teaches students engineering and advanced manufacturing skills.

Marketing and cooperative education is an elective that involves learning fundamental marketing concepts and workplace skills.

The school also offers an unpaid internship program.

The product design and development program teaches skills necessary to design, engineer and build innovative products.

New to this year’s class offerings are the return of robotics, integrated systems technology, product design and development and networking.

Product design and development will lend students a chance to work with advance machinery and technology to create a variety of wood products similar to those required in a career in manufacturing.

Integrated systems technology offers students the opportunity to learn electrical components, HVAC and manufacturing machinery, similar to those required in any manufacturing facility.

In addition to this change, the once cut robotics course will be brought back since the schools have received a grant. A networking academy also will be instated to meet the shortage of IT professionals.

In the networking academy, students will complete a career studies certificate in networking. Certifications include CompTia A+ Hardware, CompTia A+ Software, CISCO CCENT and Microsoft MTA. All classes are dual enrolled.

While these numerous classes may seem like an overload of choices for students, Woltz’s newest office, just around the corner of the guidance office, is there to help.

She is pleased to announce she now has a career center, something she feels the school has always needed.

In addition to help and support from Woltz and other staff members, the computer lab will offer a chance for students to take a career assessment inventory test that will assess which top three careers the student is most likely to be interested in.

“It breaks it down by your interest and then by what level of education you want to do, and then it will do it in reverse, it will do your interest and the level of education you have to have to do that. It tells you pretty much everything you need to know,” said Woltz.

Students would then be directed to which courses they could take in high school, which certifications they could earn and how to further their education in that field if they so choose.

In addition to setting up her new office, Woltz also has been busy printing brochures for each department, hanging up promotion flyers, signing students up for classes, encouraging CTE clubs to start flourishing again and scheduling a CTE Expo.

She hopes to have the expo in February, which is CTE Awareness Month.

Some may still question the method of focusing on skills rather than degrees, but Woltz insures skeptics she has done her research.

She has had several meetings with companies all throughout the area to find out which jobs are in demand.

“They’re looking for a highly skilled person,” said Woltz. “And where there’s a shortage, there’s high pay.”

If students take these CTE courses and take them seriously, Woltz believes they can leave the high school with certifications in hand, get a good job and make good money right out of high school.

Ashley Hodge is a staff writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at ahodge@gazettevirginian.com