JAMES CITY Lafayette High School, Jamestown High School and Warhill High School all provide students with opportunities to develop needed skills to enter the workforce and to whet their appetite for further study at a trade school, community college or four-year institution.

The Peninsula Council for Workforce Development and Thomas Nelson Community College released Skills to Succeed Inventory, a comprehensive study of careers with 14 top Virginia Peninsula manufacturing companies. The companies report they will need 11,500 skilled trades and precision production workers from 2012 to 2016, most of which do not require a four-year degree.

Lafayette High and Jamestown High provide students within their walls with 21st century experiences allowing the students to remain at their home school vs. needing to travel to Warhill High for PLTW or to travel to the regional technical center.

Students may opt to take college credit classes in computer aided design and modeling/simulation, both using the latest professional software for the industry. Engineering explorations and engineering studies provide students with hands-on activities that incorporate the prototyping labs (shops), hand tools and three-dimensional printers. Architectural design, geographic information systems and graphics communications harness the latest software technologies to expose students to sought-after skills.

Lafayette High School was the first of the three WJC high schools and from its beginning offered courses in residential and commercial wiring, building trades, LPN, and auto mechanics. Over the past 40 years of the curriculum evolution of Lafayette, we have lost each of these programs, with the remaining program, LPN, seeing its last graduating class in 2014.

With the onset of the computer and the availability of classes from the comfort of your home, colleges and secondary schools alike have begun more and more "virtual classes" for students. This will allow some students to advance more quickly, advance at their pace, access a class that might not be offered locally, or even to "reclaim" some needed credits toward graduation.

While additional training via this method is sometimes unavoidable because of the quickly changing technologies, I prefer a plumber who has actually worked on real devices, a nurse who has learned in a real environment and an auto technician who has done more than just "Googled" how to fix my car.

Career and technical education (for the 21st century) courses while a student is attending Lafayette, Jamestown or Warhill high schools are still the best opportunity and bargain for your student to acquire the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) skills needed now, which may lead him or her to additional training through apprenticeships, military service, technical school, community college, four-year institution or entering the workforce directly from graduation.

To learn more about all WJC courses, go to http://wjccschools.org/web/wpcontent/uploads/2014/05/14-15-ProgramOfStudies-Final.pdf.

Richard W. Aadahl is a 33-year veteran technology education teacher for WJC Schools.