When it comes to being poised for success in today’s workforce, the earlier students can learn valuable and practical skills, the better. The 160 full-time students currently enrolled at Balfour Education Center aren’t attending your typical high school. While they take required classes to fulfill state requirements, Balfour students are also given a unique opportunity to explore a career pathway. Pathways include Mechatronics, Firefighting, Restaurant Management, Business and Finance, and Automotive Technology.
Serving as Henderson County’s alternative high school, Balfour is taking proactive steps to ensure future success. These career technical education (CTE) pathways mean that students can dual enroll in college classes while still in high school. This not only saves time and money, but it also helps jumpstart their careers. “We’re offering them a big dent in a two-year college program by the time they leave high school,” says Principal Kent Parent.
Over the years, Friday Services has supported Balfour Education Center and helped many graduates find jobs that suit their skills. Here’s a look at how Balfour helps students plan for the future.
How it Works
Balfour’s motto, “The day after graduation,” reflects its focus on life after high school.
Students can enroll in Balfour for their freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior year. If they come as freshmen, they take a career management class that familiarizes them with the different pathways offered before they must make a decision.
“Our goal is to help them be successful early in their high school careers, so they can fit more college courses in their schedules,” says Kent. The CTE classes have built within the curriculum coursework that develops job ready skills, time management, resume building, career research, and soft skills, among others.
Students take four classes within a pathway. Each CTE pathway has entry-level courses, mid-level computer courses, and higher level courses. Students can stop after any level of class, and many courses can apply to multiple pathways so even if students change their mind, they won’t be behind. If a student finishes a pathway by the end of sophomore year, then, as a junior, they’re eligible for Career and College Promise. This mean they can take community college classes. By senior year, they could have earned more than 20 college credits.
While CTE classes can be offered at any high school, Balfour is the only school that in the county that offers Firefighting and Electronics (known as Mechatronics). About 35 part-time students from nearby high schools take CTE classes at Balfour.
The Day After Graduation
“We stress to our students the importance of preparing for the future,” says Kent. “We promote the Career and College Promise Program where high school students can take college classes while in high school.”
He adds, “We offer career paths that lead to programs offered at Blue Ridge Community and also to A-B Tech.” Blue Ridge Community College is almost always the natural step for students who graduate from Balfour. A student can continue at BRCC to obtain a certificate, diploma, or associate’s degree. Certificates are stackable and students can earn them while in high school.
While Balfour is currently located seven miles from the Blue Ridge Community College’s East Flat Rock campus, it won’t be long before they’re much closer. A new building, set to open in August, is located at BRCC so that students can more easily access college-level classes.
If a student is interested in going to a four-year college or university, BRCC offers a college transfer degree that gives them most or all of the first two years of college work that transfers to a North Carolina college or university. Every student is different and some opt to graduate early and not take Blue Ridge Community College classes, but enter the workforce with a high school diploma.
Graduating seniors who have completed a specific CTE pathway (excluding art, band, music, etc. that are not CTE) can take the WorkKeys assessment, which is one tool used to measure career readiness. “We found that (WorkKeys) has become such an emphasis for potential employers that we shifted our emphasis to helping students get prepared to take the WorkKeys and do well on them,” says Kent.
Made in Henderson Tours
The Henderson County Partnership of Economic Development works with Henderson County Public Schools Career Technical Education Department to produce the Made in Henderson tours. These field trips bring students to different industries and manufacturing locations. “We take them through there and let them see the workers and what they do day in and day out,” says Kent. “This is a great program and our students are really getting some great exposure and information.”
What This Means for Students & Their Careers
Employers are looking for students ready to work and open to specialized training. Kent shared with us a quote he’s heard: If an employer hires you for what you know today, you’ll be a liability in five years, but if an employer hires you for what you’re able to learn, you’ll be an asset to the employer forever. He adds, “We don’t just tell students how to make things or work on an assembly line; we teach them how an assembly line works.”
Some students learn how an automobile works, or about electronical components. Students can be hired as electrical technicians in an auto center, a very specialized position. Kent says, “We’re exposing them, providing them with opportunities, and training them to think beyond what is currently out there just for today.”
We’re Here for You
We’re proud to partner with Balfour and to help Balfour graduates begin their careers after graduation. If you would like to discuss how we can help you begin your new future in manufacturing or another type of career, contact us! We would love to help you, too.