Wise County Career-Technical Center expanding its medical curriculum

Mike Still • Mar 27, 2019 at 3:17 PM

WISE — Wise County Career-Technical Center Principal William Austin says his school aims to produce students ready to make a living or continue their education.

The center’s newest program, for pharmacy technicians, set for rollout in August, continues that philosophy.

“What we hope to have by the end of next year is students certified in pharmacy tech,” Austin said. “It can either be a completion program where you want to work as a pharmacy technician and that’s what you do, or we hope it will lead to an entry program such as pharmacy school.”

Austin said the program is the latest in a range of traditional and newer programs at the center, in which students not only take classes on the range of skills for the profession but are ready to take tests for the necessary professional or governmental licensure to work.

The center already offers courses to become a certified nursing assistant, Austin said, and CNA instructor Dora Buchanan will take on instructing the first program enrollees at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year.

“There is a state licensure associated with the class,” Austin said. “When they come out, they’re going to have the competencies when they take the state licensure test.”

Austin said the new program is another example of how the Career-Technical Center structures its career education. In the center’s automobile maintenance and repair programs, students are prepared to take industry certification tests. Cosmetology students are also prepared to take the necessary Virginia licensing exams to start working after graduation, and Austin said job placement rates for center graduates are high.

Austin said the demand for qualified pharmacy technicians exists at several levels from discount store/supermarket chain pharmacies and three area hospitals to mom-and-pop drugstores. That demand, combined with the interest shown through a student survey, helped cement school division plans to start the program.

While community colleges in Southwest Virginia also offer pharmacy technician programs, Austin said the center’s program helps students get an early start while completing their high school education.

“We can’t just teach a class because one or two people come and say they want to take a class,” Austin said. “It has to be an area where you’re producing students who will be able to enter the workforce.”

The center’s pharmacy program also will help prepare students who may want to continue a college-level education including pharmacy school.

“They’re prepared to go to college or they’re prepared to go to work, one of the two, and that’s what our goal is,” Austin said. “We’re turning out work- and learning-ready students.”