Institute of Innovation Cherokee County Continues 50 Years of Career and Technology Education

For 50 years, Cherokee County has been offering its high school students a path to work through vocational training. First conceived as Cherokee Area Vocational Center, it was renamed in 1994 to Cherokee Technology Center, and next year, when the center moves to a new facility on the campus of Spartanburg Community College–Cherokee County, it will again be renamed, this time calling itself Institute of Innovation Cherokee County.

The new name reflects the center’s ongoing commitment to staying at the cutting edge of workplace technology and programs to prepare the county’s young people to work in fourteen fields from agriculture to medical, and four new programs will be added next year at the new facility: auto collision, animal science, electronics, and law enforcement. Additionally, Project Lead the Way, a pre-engineering program that is currently taught at Gaffney High School, will be at the new center and available to all of the county’s high school students.

The center services sophomores, juniors, and seniors from both Gaffney and Blacksburg High Schools, serving about 22% of each school for a total of 535 students; juniors come in the morning and go back to their home high school for lunch and afternoon classes, and seniors come in the afternoon, while some sophomores come to either the morning or afternoon session. Next year, freshmen will also have the opportunity to start the career-track classes.

Currently, says center director Lane Carter, the center offers language arts and math classes to accommodate students’ schedules, but next year, when the district moves to a block schedule, there will be more flexibility for students to be able to focus on the career and technology classes while they are at the center, and the core school subjects will be returned to the high schools.

Students can earn dual enrollment credit towards a two- or four-year college degree (the center has an articulation agreement with Spartanburg Community College) or what’s known as TAP credit—technical advanced placement, which goes towards a technical degree or certification.

Seniors who have earned the right to have an early dismissal have the opportunity to participate in a work-based learning program, in which they co-op with one of the center’s 144 business partners. The students leave directly from their home school and go to a job site instead of going to the center, and many are hired on after the completion of the program.

Each one of the career and technology departments has an advisory committee in addition to the school’s overall advisory board. “Our business partners are active on the superintendent’s advisory, so they work well with us and they’ve always supported the school system and us at the Cherokee Technology Center, so we look forward to that continued relationship,” Carter says. “It’s important [to have] their input into what’s going on in industry, in manufacturing, in the community. We’re hearing them loud and clear that they have an aging workforce and they need young workers.”

Carter feels that the new name better reflects the services that they offer to Cherokee County high school students and the community: “Of course the word ‘institute’ refers to a school,” he says, “and innovation is new, fresh, cutting edge. We have managed to keep some of the traditional career and technology education and then adding Project Lead the Way and electronics, animal science, and law enforcement. We feel like we are better able to meet the needs of our business community.”

He continues, “This institute has been here for 50 years and we feel like it’s been 50 years of excellence. We want to continue that excellence and also be innovative and help our business community and manufacturing community to meet their workforce needs—to send them students who not only have the hard skills that help them get the job, but soft skills that will help them keep the job and be productive citizens in our community.”

Photos courtesy of Cherokee Technology Center.

Sharon Purvis is a freelance writer and editor who makes her home with her husband in Spartanburg, South Carolina. You can find more of her work at SharonPurvisWrites.com.

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