Buckingham Schools receive grant for its automotive program

Published 5:40 pm Sunday, July 30, 2023

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The automotive program is growing and developing in Buckingham County schools, thanks to some recent help. The district received $125,000 this month from the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), with certain instructions. The goal, VDOE officials said, was to help districts expand, establish or restore programs in middle or high school. 

In last year’s regular session, the General Assembly allocated $3 million to the project, with $125,000 going to each school district that applied for and was approved for a grant. There were only two rules. First, the grants had to be used on programs that lead to students earning industry-recognized certifications or credentials. This couldn’t be used on any random part of the districts. Second, these programs had to be in demand in the region, with the potential for students to get job opportunities once they finish with school. Neighboring Prince Edward County Public Schools, for example, is using their money to improve a nursing program and relaunch a broadcasting program. 

“In Virginia and across the nation there are high-paying jobs in the skilled trades that go unfilled due to a shortage of qualified applicants,” Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Coons said. “I want to thank the General Assembly for recognizing the need to prepare more young people for these career opportunities and providing the funding for these grants.”

What will that mean for Buckingham? 

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At the Buckingham County Career and Technical Center, high school students learn specific career skills that give them the experience needed before starting their chosen careers. Along with automotive, students can get experience in culinary arts, cosmetology, nursing, agriculture and welding. These skills can help the students decide on a career path and give them a step up in the field they choose. 

According to Kyle Bryan, principal at the CTE Center, the automotive program shut down for several years before restarting two years ago. The automotive field is ever-changing as new cars and equipment come out each year. This grant will be used to give the automotive equipment a needed update to bring it up to industry standard. 

“We need to update the equipment we have as most of it was purchased in the 1980s,” said Bryan.

In the automotive class, students learn to analyze problems in the car’s electrical systems, engine performance, brakes, steering and suspension and then how to fix the problems they find. With this grant, the CTE Center will buy another lift and alignment machine which are desperately needed. According to Kristin Janssen, Buckingham’s director of instruction, the grant has to be used this school year so the students should see this update very soon. 

A great benefit for the high school students that participate in the automotive program is that the program can give them the experience they need to go straight into the workforce. If they complete all the necessary certifications, students can not only go into the workforce but do the job well when they do. 

“We are very lucky to have our career and technical education building where students can walk to it,” said Janssen. “We are fortunate that the school board puts funding towards this separate building for our students. We have a ton of awesome programs and it’s a great space.”