SouthernTech Rolls-out new 10-month programs

The Daily Ardmoreite

SouthernTech is transitioning most full-time programs to 600-hour (10 month) programs for the upcoming academic year. To increase access to their programs, eliminate barriers that prohibit students from attending the school, and produce more skilled students in a shorter amount of time, SouthernTech is adjusting the number of required hours for most programs.

“We know that students learn differently today and they have access to learning resources so much more so than students even 10 years ago,” said Deputy Superintendent, Dr. Eric Ward. “It is our job to train students to be prepared for the careers of today and teach them to be life-long learners.”

Several factors led SouthernTech to make the changes to the hours required for their programs. They considered the widening of the skills gap, long wait-lists due to class capacity, student feedback on their inability to commit to two years, and the disengagement of students in the second year of their program.

With those factors in mind, SouthernTech went through the process of assessing all of their programs through the lens of Rigorous Curriculum Design (Ainsworth and Donovan, 2019). To reach the intended goal of 600 instructional hours per year, students will be required to complete 75 hours (about 2 hours a week) through distance learning. These distant learning hours will prepare students for their week of learning and will provide students more hands-on time in the shops and labs when they are on campus.

“We have taken a hard look at the content of our programs and I know we can do better to meet the needs of our students and our communities,” said Dr. Ward. “This approach to delivering instruction will help us educate and certify a multitude of students each year.”

This is a fundamental shift from the structure SouthernTech has offered in the past. This new structure will give students an opportunity to stack credentials and improve their marketability. Students attending SouthernTech while in high school will have an opportunity to attend multiple programs, and earn credentials in multiple career areas. Adult students will be able to attend a single program and get the skills they need to immediately seek employment.

“Our goal is for our students to have as many options as possible when pursuing career and college,” said Dr. Ward. “All students should have a skill that can support them through the uncertain times that life tends to throw at us.”

In addition to serving more students in a shorter time frame, SouthernTech is also adding new programs for the upcoming academic school year. New programs for the 2021-2022 school year include Horticulture, Small Business Management, Robotics, and Energy & Power Production.