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A state grant is helping Volusia County Schools add another vocational education program, this one in heating and air conditioning at Pine Ridge High School in Deltona.

The $531,457 grant is part of the $10 million awarded through the Florida Pathways to Career Opportunities Grant Program. The awards were announced in February.

The new Heating/Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Mechanics/Installers and Heating/Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Mechanics program will start at Pine Ridge High in the 2021-2022 school year, Bree Castelli, VCS coordinator of Career & Technical Education, said in a news release.

“We are extremely appreciative of the state for awarding this grant to make this new program possible,” Castelli said. “We already have building construction and manufacturing programs, but this will be the first program for heating and air conditioning, which is a career field with high demand in Florida.”

Students in the new heating/air conditioning program will have the opportunity to earn industry certifications and will complete a pre-apprenticeship the summer before their senior year, according to the release. UA Local 295 Apprenticeship in Daytona Beach is working with VCS to develop the curriculum and pre-apprenticeship experience.

UA Local 295 and local business owners/operators will serve on the program’s advisory board, and many local businesses have already pledged to work with the program’s students.

The state grant will pay for the program’s equipment, software, computers and curriculum. The program will have a classroom, and the district will construct a separate building to house larger training machines.

VCS plans to add more vocational programs in the coming years, Castelli said.

A HOME FOR FOWLS — Students in DeLand High’s construction vocational program built this chicken coop earlier this school year. Volusia County Schools will be starting another vocational education program at Pine Ridge High School next year to teach students heating, ventilation and air conditioning skills.

“Through pre-apprenticeship, our graduates will be able to go directly into apprenticeships after high school, so it’s a great opportunity for students and our business partners that need trained workers,” she said.

Families interested in the new heating/air conditioning program should complete the survey at www.tinyurl.com/PRHSHVAC or contact Pine Ridge High for enrollment information. Students do not have to be zoned for Pine Ridge but will need to apply for a variance to attend. Applications for School Choice variances for next school year will open March 1.

The hallmark of the registered apprenticeship model is that most of the knowledge and skill acquisition is done through on-the-job training (OJT), the state grant news release said. Because of the uncertainty related to COVID-19, registered apprenticeship programs continue to provide maximum flexibility in the delivery of OJT.

More information about the Florida Pathways to Career Opportunities Grant Program is available at www.fldoe.org/pathwaysgrant.

VCS said several business partners have already expressed support for the new HVAC program: CareerSource Flagler Volusia, HM2 Mechanical and Specialty Contractors, Kinetic Systems, MJW Consolidated, Siemens, Thermaserve Inc. and Von-Aire Inc.

Other companies interested in becoming a business partner should contact CTE at 386-734-7190, ext. 20640.

Career & Technical Education provides rigorous instruction to prepare students for high-wage, high-skill, high-demand careers, and/or postsecondary opportunities, VCS said.

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