By Joe Garvey

Old Dominion University has been awarded funding to facilitate the expansion of the Great Opportunities in Technology and Engineering Careers (GO TEC™) framework into additional Hampton Roads schools and school divisions.

As a result of this grant, ODU will serve as the In-Region Coordinating Entity (IRCE) for GO TEC in GO Virginia Region 5, which includes Hampton Roads. The University will work with staff from Danville’s Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) to build the infrastructure and administrative capacity to support Career Connections labs and teachers in Portsmouth, Hampton and Newport News and a new middle school in the Norfolk Public Schools division. Labs are already operating in Cradock Middle School in Portsmouth, Ella Fitzgerald Middle School in Newport News and C. Alton Lindsay Middle School in Hampton.

Furthermore, a lab that would train educators and serve as a demonstration site for school districts and other interested workforce and business entities is planned at Brooks Crossing Innovation and Opportunity Center in Newport News. ODU is one of the center’s principal collaborators.

“Reaching students in the middle school years enables us to spark an interest in career and technical career pathways.” - ODU's Karen Sanzo

Karen Sanzo, professor of educational leadership and graduate program director for the educational leadership services program at ODU’s Darden College of Education and Professional Studies, will serve as the local In-Region coordinator.

“We are thrilled about the opportunity to help expand the GO TEC program in our local public school systems,” Sanzo said. “This will enhance the skills of our region’s young, emerging workforce and prepare them to step into technical and engineering jobs throughout the Hampton Roads area.”

GO TEC delivers workforce training and talent development through a collaborative, hub-and-spoke model that involves K-12 school systems, higher education, economic development professionals and industry. Starting in middle school Career Connections labs and continuing through high school, dual-enrollment and post-secondary programs, GO TEC engages students in hands-on learning in high-demand career pathways such as precision machining, welding, IT and cybersecurity, robotics and automation, mechatronics and advanced materials.

Sanzo explained why it’s important to start to program in middle school.

“By the time students get to high school many have already determined their academic pathways,” she said. “Reaching students in the middle school years enables us to spark an interest in career and technical career pathways.”

As the IRCE for GO TEC in Hampton Roads, ODU will establish a 21-member GO TEC Advisory Board and partner with IALR to drive GO TEC expansion – supporting teachers, validating talent pathway opportunities and quantifying Virginia’s return on investment in the form of job creation, job placement and private sector investment.

“Existing programs in GO Virginia Region 5 closely align to expanding the proven GO TEC model,” said Thomas R. Frantz, chair of the GO Virginia regional council. “For example, Brooks Crossing Innovation and Opportunity Center is associated with the Virginia Digital Shipbuilding Program that was partially funded with a GO Virginia grant. And the Hampton Roads Maritime Industrial Base Eco-system (MIBE) program led to GO TEC expansion efforts early in 2022 under the Defense Manufacturing Community Support Program. This program will ensure a strong connection between the region’s future workforce needs and the STEM learning opportunities available.”

Additionally, Reinvent Hampton Roads provides fiduciary oversight and administrative services for GO Virginia activities in Region 5.

Created as a pilot program in Danville and Pittsylvania County in 2018, GO TEC will be in 25 middle schools across the commonwealth as of spring 2023. By 2025, IALR staff anticipate that number will grow to 50 as a result of this grant.

“The GO TEC framework has been incredibly successful, both as a pilot program in Danville and Pittsylvania County and as we have partnered with other localities across Virginia,” said Julie Brown, vice president of advanced learning at IALR. “With this additional funding from GO Virginia, we will be able to support the current and anticipated expansion into dozens of K12 schools across multiple regions of the commonwealth. I’m excited to see how GO TEC makes a positive, direct impact on the students, educational systems, economic development efforts and overall success of these regions, just like it has in Southern Virginia.”

GO Virginia, the commonwealth’s initiative for growth and opportunity in each of the state’s five regions, supports programs to create more high-paying jobs through incentivized collaboration between business, education and government. This expansion of GO TEC is the result of $3,474,821 in GO Virginia grant funding, which was part of more than $5 million in GO Virginia grants announced by Gov. Glenn Youngkin in December. The state funds are matched with $2,4426,079 in local and federal funds from the partner organizations.