Blue Ridge Community and Technical College has a unique geographical location spanning rural communities to the west and more suburban areas of Maryland and Virginia to the east. For many years, this location was relatively isolated and faced economic challenges common to much of Appalachia. Recently, manufacturing-related employment in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia is growing rapidly as companies expand operations or open new facilities. Building on an existing partnership with regional industry, this project aims to provide technical education in advanced manufacturing to address industry workforce needs in the region. Specifically, this project will develop a dual credit program in advanced manufacturing, so that high school students can earn both high school and college credits as they pursue advanced manufacturing credentials. The project will also develop a gateway mathematics course to help prepare students for college mathematics. These enhancements in the STEM educational infrastructure and advanced manufacturing pathways are expected to expand technical career opportunities for low income students in the West Virginia eastern panhandle region.

The primary objectives of this project are to expand the college?s Advanced Manufacturing Technology program to include high school students and to improve completion, retention, and enrollment of students in the program. Project activities that will be used to achieve these objectives include: 1) implementing Math JumpStart and intensive advising to strengthen specific STEM skills for high school students and young adults; 2) developing new hybrid advanced manufacturing courses to expand pathways for students employed either full- or part-time and in need of specific STEM skills enhancement; and 3) equipping a new lab facility at the Pines Center in Morgan County to enable experiential learning aligned with real-life employment experiences at regional manufacturing partners. Industry will be engaged with the project through regional industry conferences and meetings of the Industry Advisory Committee. Outreach activities to recruit more students will focus on high schools, community organizations, and local government offices. Project outcomes will be evaluated through a formative and summative evaluation design using data about project outcomes from surveys, focus groups, and aggregated college data. A primary public benefit of this project is increased access to technical careers for students from households with generational poverty, thus supporting upward economic mobility. This project is funded by the Advanced Technological Education program that focuses on the education of technicians for the advanced-technology fields that drive the nation's economy.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE)
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Program Officer
John Jackman
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Blue Ridge Community & Technical College
United States
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