The expression “killing two birds with one stone” sounds negative in a way, but officials with Guilford County Schools are nothing but positive about a new program being implemented in 2019 that’s meant to do just that.

One of the birds that will be killed is the problem of having enough workers with specialized training available for the area’s workforce, and another bird that the stone will knock upside the head is the problem of students graduating and not being able to find well-paying jobs.

The “stone” in this case, is the Career Technical Education (CTE) program, which is designed to give students what they need to become “successful citizens, workers and leaders in a global economy.”  CTE will help prepare students to find success in the local labor force by making sure that interested students acquire the specialized technical skills most needed by area employers.  It will also offer training in the hands-on application of those skills.

The program, which is being implemented with a great deal of input from the local business community, hopes to keep students from dropping out as well as greatly improve their prospects of finding good jobs when they do graduate.  It will include work-based participation, and students in the program are likely to have a strong involvement with area employers even before graduating.

Guilford County Board of Education Member Pat Tillman, who’s taken a lead role on the project, said he’s extremely excited about the prospects and added that a great deal of thought has gone into the design of the program.

“It’s a culmination of part of a talent-alignment study,” he said, adding that, over a year and a half ago, a “blue ribbon committee” was put together to look at ways to help get students workforce ready.

Tillman said CTE is a major five-year effort meant to match the education students get with area workforce needs.  He said the first phase of the program will go into effect starting in the fall of 2019.

He said preliminary endeavors down the road of providing students with specialized technical training in high-demand fields have been very successful.  Tillman said there is, for instance, a lot of excitement around a program that offers real-world computer coding classes at Gibsonville Elementary School.

“It’s amazing,” he said of the way kids light up when they’re doing that work.

Some of the first fields that will be addressed by CTE include Agri-science, cyber-security, health and life sciences and advanced manufacturing – something that is meant to, for instance, provide workers for the two area megasites.

Tillman said CTE will also address some of the shortages in the field of public safety by preparing those interested to become police officers, firefighters or other emergency responders.

Workforce development has been a major focus of Guilford County’s economic development efforts over the last two years.  The subject is often a major topic at Guilford County Economic Development Alliance meetings and workforce development groups are well represented on the advisory council that serves that alliance.