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Grants to give students new skills

Students in Escambia County schools will have a chance to learn new skills next year, thanks to two grants the school system earned as part of the state’s push to boost career technical education.

The Escambia Career Readiness Center in Brewton will have robotics classes under a $253,000 grant, and Escambia County High School will have culinary arts classes under a $158,000 grant.

“We checked with local industries in the surrounding areas” to determine what programs would be most beneficial to them, Superintendent Randall Little said. Robotics or industrial electronics classes will give students the versatile technical skills needed for a variety of positions at area industries, said Career Readiness Center Principal David Lanier.

“The skills will be hands on plus using computers,” he said. Culinary arts skills will be of use for employees at Wind Creek Casino and Hotel and other hospitality and restaurant facilities in the area. Lanier said he hopes both sets of classes will be available starting in fall 2014. Each program will be two years and will be certified, giving students a leg up on employment when they graduate high school. Lanier credited state Superintendent Tommy Bice with putting a focus on technical education to prepare students for the workforce as well as for higher education.

“The demand is there for skilled workers,” he said. Statewide, there has been a greater push for technical education. Last week, House Republicans unveiled an initiative to create a $10 million scholarship program for dual enrollment programs in technical classes. Little said that dual enrollment participation has been down because of a lack of funding, but that Escambia County Schools do have some students involved in programs at Jefferson Davis Community College and Reid State.