VCS Receives State Grant to Launch HVAC program at Pine Ridge High School

HVAC units

DELAND – Volusia County Schools has been awarded a $531,457 state grant to launch a vocational program in heating/air conditioning at Pine Ridge High School in Deltona.

Gov. Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran announced the Florida Pathways to Career Opportunities Grant awardees Tuesday. Statewide, $10 million was awarded to support the expansion of local registered apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs at schools, colleges, universities, and private training entities.

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, said Bree Castelli, VCS Coordinator of Career & Technical Education.

“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.”

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

“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,” Castelli said.

Families interested in the new heating/air conditioning program should complete the survey 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. During this time of uncertainty related to COVID-19, registered apprenticeship programs continue to provide maximum flexibility in the delivery of OJT.

“Expanding registered apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs not only is a strategic investment in our state’s workforce, but it addresses the state’s skills gap, (and) provides support for employers and residents impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Gov. DeSantis said.

More information about the Florida Pathways to Career Opportunities Grant Program is available at the program's website.

Thank you to the business partners who have already expressed support for the new heating/air conditioning 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.

February is #CTEMonth! Career & Technical Education provides rigorous instruction to prepare students for high-wage, high-skill, high-demand careers, and/or postsecondary opportunities. CTE bridges secondary and postsecondary curriculum, provides industry certification opportunities, reinforces core academics, and delivers the skills necessary for cutting-edge, economically viable career options. Work-based learning opportunities, hands-on learning, school-based enterprises, and CTE student organizations are key components of CTE.