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Over the past few weeks, around 350 students visited PHCC's campus and attended short 25-minute sessions that showcased different programs including Workforce Development and Continuing Education, emergency medical services, computer aided drafting (CAD), and courses at the Fab Lab and Artisan Center.

Bassett High school students visit PHCC

Matthew Wade (left), coordinator for the Fab Lab at the Artisan Center, worked with Bassett High School students Adam Martin (center) and Jasmine Hardin (right) to develop ideas for mobile applications.

Colin Ferguson, pathways coordinator for Accelerated Learning at PHCC, said they formed the trip based on a similar program from Southwest Virginia Community College.

After we formed a plan from a steering committee, I sent a request to every division to give them a chance to showcase what they are doing, he said. I had great response from everyone. Our goal was not to show one little part of the college, but to showcase a broad range of what we're doing.

Martinsville High School visit PHCC
Seniors from Martinsville High School raise their hands as Kimberly Buck, coordinator of community development programs at PHCC, ask a question about entrepreneurship during a trip to PHCC on March 26.

Ferguson said students that visited had no plan after high school, or they’re already planning to attend PHCC. He said it "exposes these students to more options after high school, and allows them to have direct contact with college faculty and personnel. Maybe they will be more comfortable asking questions or coming to campus if they see a familiar face."

Kimberly Buck, coordinator of community development programs, and Matthew Wade, Fab Lab coordinator, told students about innovation and entrepreneurship resources available at PHCC.

Franklin County High School students visit PHCC
Franklin County students.

I encouraged students to look at the needs of our community and to see that as an entrepreneurial opportunity, Buck said. If they want to start a business someday, they have a lot of options at Patrick Henry Community College – from the associate degree program in entrepreneurship and small business management, to our noncredit workshops that cover different aspects of running a business.

The Artisan Center in uptown Martinsville offers further options for artist entrepreneurs, including short-term courses in new subjects and classes in artisan entrepreneurship if they're interested in becoming professional artists and selling their work, added Buck.

Students also took a video tour of the Fab Lab, located in the Artisan Center, and learned about digital fabrication technology available to students.

Brenell Thomas, programs coordinator for Workforce Development and Continuing Education, said this program is a unique opportunity to reach students for career credit courses.

We usually target non-traditional students with our programming, so to introduce our short-term workforce and entrepreneurial programs to high school students was very beneficial for our division,” she said. Students often think it takes years to complete a program of study and may not realize that some other training options offered at PHCC helps them gain in-demand skills to go to work right away.

Franklin County students visit PHCC

Franklin County High School students.

Students came from Franklin County High School, Patrick County High School, Martinsville High School, Magna Vista High School and Bassett High School.

Bassett Principal John Gibbs traveled to PHCC with about 60 students on March 29. He attended four sessions and said he learned about the tremendous amount of programming available at the college.

Bassett High School students visit PHCC
Cory Werkheiser (standing), instructional career specialist for PHCC, spoke to Bassett High School students on March 29 about career decisions after high school.

I think it's a great thing that PHCC organized this for area high school seniors – it's been a real eye opener for them to be here, he said. I'm not sure if they know how many opportunities are available to them. Community stakeholders have told us local industries are looking for skilled workers to fill jobs. PHCC can give us that.

Lloyd Cannaday, computer-aided drafting (CAD) instructor, told students about opportunities in architectural and engineering design. He said, "Students got to see the technologies they can become skilled at and make careers of. In my classroom, they explored skills needed to become a virtual reality modeler for engineering and architecture. It was a great thing for PHCC and the high school seniors."

Ferguson said these trips were a rewarding experience for everyone involved.

Martinsville High School
Timothy Willis (left) and Mikel Carter (right), both seniors at Martinsville High School, check out a 3-D printed object during a visit on March 26.

It takes a lot to put something like this together, he said. The support of local school divisions helped tremendously. They are committed to lifelong education and the futures of their students moving forward, even after they leave high school.