Upper Valley Joint Vocational School

Techniques, February 2004 | Go to article overview

Upper Valley Joint Vocational School


Eight years ago the HVACR program at the Upper Valley Joint Vocational School in Piqua, Ohio, had only 12 students and was in danger of being closed. Today it has 37 students, is attracting national attention and is preparing to break ground on a new facility.

The instructor who has taken the program from near death to flourishing is Scott Naill. Naill, however, refuses to take credit for this remarkable turnaround.

"The success has come from the students, the employers and the administration," he says modestly. "I just guide things."

That guidance led to a designation by the National Dissemination Center for Career and Technical Education as one of the promising programs for 2001. In bestowing this recognition, the National Dissemination Center noted the Upper Valley JVS program's role in preparing students for high-demand technical positions within the field and said, "In response to the need to set higher academic and technical standards, the program has been changed from an appliance repair class to a modern, state-of-the-art residential and commercial training facility, setting higher academic and technical standards."

The recognition helped the program to improve even further, because Naill says they were then able to put together a grant emphasizing academics and career tech. They formed an advisory committee to get ideas for preparing students for the Ohio Proficiency Test and investigated software used to enhance skills. A recruitment video about the program was professionally produced and is used to help educate parents, students and high school counselors about career paths after graduation from the HVACR program.

A PATH TO SUCCESS

Upper Valley JVS draws students from 14 associate high school districts in Miami and Shelby counties, so it is important that parents and counselors understand that a career and technical education program such as the HVACR program is not an educational dead end followed by a low-paying job. Instead it is quite the opposite. There are articulation agreements in place with Sinclair Community College in Dayton and the University of Northwestern Ohio in Lima, as well as apprenticeship programs that can lead to scholarships.

Industry support has been another critical element in the success of the Upper Valley JVS HVACR program. Copeland Corporation, Trane, Carrier and Bryant are among the businesses that have provided money, time and resources to Upper Valley JVS.

Copeland Corporation, a division of Emerson, is the world's leading compressor manufacturer and has a plant in nearby Sidney, Ohio. The company does training all across the United States, and as a result of Naill's efforts in developing the HVACR program, Copeland now flies people in from around the country to train and to work with his students. Another facet of the relationship with Copeland involves employment of student apprentices from the Upper Valley JVS program. Annually, four students are recruited during their junior year to work with Copeland.

"It's like a football draft program," says Naill. "They want to recruit the best students."

The student apprentices work for 40 hours a week during the summer-getting valuable hands-on training in Copeland's Product Evaluation Laboratory-then during senior year they work two weeks on and two weeks off. They apply to the University of Northwestern Ohio and are provided a $5,400 scholarship. The students work part time while going to school, and after graduation from Northwestern, they are offered a full-time position with the company.

Through this arrangement, the company gets a well-educated and highly skilled employee-and all of the students are able to clearly see the goal toward which they are working.

Naill explains, "It provides a student who has struggled in high school with something to work toward: If you meet this criteria, you'll have a good future." The program itself is founded on the mission of providing the highest quality training and an expectation that it will meet or exceed both industry and school standards. …

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