New Director, New Opportunities in UCHS CTE

Union County High School Career and Technical Education director Bryan Shoffner

Career and Technical Education, that block of high school programs that some of us used to call "vocational," is not just for shop class anymore. These days, students are using CTE at Union County High School to launch themselves into skilled, technical jobs right out of high school, and the fields represented may surprise you.

Bryan Shoffner assumed the role of CTE director this fall, and he is still in awe of the quality programs offered at UCHS. Shoffner has been with Union County Public Schools for 25 years. Among other postings, he served as basketball coach at UCHS for seven years and principal at Sharps Chapel Elementary for 13 years. The transition to high school has been an adjustment.

"The kids look at me different here," he joked.

He misses Sharps Chapel, but he's enjoying the opportunity to help students get good, career jobs.

"With high school kids, they're getting ready to go into the workforce, and maybe they're more likely to remember what they learn from you at this point in their lives," he said.

There's a lot of focus on CTE programs right now, and Shoffner said it has to do with people realizing that they may accumulate a lot of student debt in college and still not land a job in their major field. But, students on the college track can reap a lot of benefit from CTE classes, too.

"I think that's why you're seeing a push for programs where students can get these certifications," he said.

Shoffner said the CTE program's success is a direct result of the faculty at UCHS and their relationships in the business community.

"For example, the health science program with Debbie Sharp, Beth Edmondson and Leslie Moore," he said. "They have connections with all the doctors offices, chiropractors, the nursing home. All of our staff knows how important it is to establish those relationships. Any partnership with any business would just strengthen us and them as well."

Business partners bring experience to the classroom, and they can also form a network to help get graduates into jobs. Shoffner said UCHS CTE is partnering with the Ride and Decide program sponsored by Gordy Noe of Pioneer Heating and Air Conditioning in Halls to offer job experience opportunities to students this summer. Open to rising juniors and seniors who meet grade and attendance requirements, Ride and Decide places CTE students in local jobs for one or two months over the summer, making at least minimum wage.

Business recruiting for Ride and Decide is about to ramp up, and Shoffner said he'd love to see placements in Union County that would match some of what UCHS CTE offers, but all business partnerships are welcome.

Shoffner said he's also working on developing more dual enrollment classes in partnership with Tennessee College of Applied Technology and Walters State Community College, so students can get a leg up on post-secondary training and get into careers quicker.

Some new course offerings include health informatics (medical insurance billing) and courses in networking and web design. In addition, UCHS alum Josh Tharpe will return in the spring semester to teach the new mechatronics program, all about automation and robotics, thanks to a $130,000 grant for equipment.

Shoffner said he's been "blown away" by the opportunities available right here in Union County, and he wants to help the CTE department keep placing students in good-paying, rewarding careers.

"We want to find new ways to influence the kids and motivate them, help them find the right niche," he said.

For more information about the Ride and Decide program, call the UCHS CET office at 865-992-5232.

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