School’s more fun for Collinsville Area Vocational Center student Brennon Fort now that his Automotive Maintenance Technology class is building its very own chopper motorcycle.
We’re putting together something we’ve never done before, said Fort, 17. Every day we’re doing something different and learning something new.
That kind of excitement and enthusiasm about learning is exactly why teacher Justin Cann proposed the project.
We’re trying to generate interest among the kids, he said.
Building motorcycles is just one of the innovative things the Collinsville Area Vocational Center is doing to increase student enrollment, which is currently at 363. With a budget of $1.6 million, the two-year public vocational training center offers 13 programs for juniors and seniors.
CAVC is open to students throughout the Metro East with districts paying CAVC $2,500 a year for each student. However after losing about 20 students from Edwardsville last year, the school is drawing students from just two other districts: Madison and Mascoutah.
But CAVC’s new director, Tricia Blackard, hopes to see that change soon. Blackard was an assistant principal at the high school for five years before being named the vocational center’s director this school year.
Blackard said CAVC’s goal is to have 20 percent of its student body come from other districts; the number now is about 16 percent. She said she’s been meeting with officials from other school districts and plans to use the resources of the Regional Office of Education to get the word out about CAVC.
The whole point of an area vocational school is for school districts to pool resources and share expenses, said Blackard, who headed Alton’s vocational school for 13 years before coming to Collinsville. I’m meeting with a variety of people to make them aware of what we offer. I’ve spent hours talking to superintendents over the summer and we hope to get two more (districts).
Blackard said she could not say which districts would possibly be coming on board until the details are finalized. She said both districts are located in Madison County.
This year, we opened it up for students to drive themselves, Blackard said. The districts are pleased because that helps alleviate transportation costs. Districts previously had to transport students to the school.
In addition to outreach, Blackard is overseeing facility upgrades and curriculum changes at the vocational center. New lifts have been installed in Automotive Repair, new appliances in Food Services and new hospital beds have been provided for the Certified Nursing Assistant Program.
And the Auto Body Repair program is undergoing a $205,000 renovation, which will include a brand-new paint booth with improved ventilation. Blackard said students in the program have not been able to paint an entire car in about five years because of the outdated equipment and ventilation system.
The vocational center is also looking at course changes. A new engineering program, which is in its inaugural year at the high school, will be in place at the vocational center next year and the center is looking to bring back its Building Trades program, which in the past allowed students to construct an entire house.
With the housing market the way it is, we’re being cautious, Blackard said. We’re looking at options like working with Habitat for Humanity or doing rehabs of foreclosures. We’re waiting to see what the enrollment numbers are.
Blackard said the CAVC is all about training students to be employable when they graduate.
We keep up with statistics from the Department of Labor for job availability, Blackard said. We’re trying to meet the needs of current business and industry.