The Washington School Board has approved pursuing a $250,000 Vocational-Technical Education Enhancement Grant for the 2020-21 school year.

The school board took action at its meeting last Wednesday, Jan. 29.

The Enhancement Grant request must be submitted to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in February. It will be for approved Career and Technical Education programs offered at both the Four Rivers Career Center and Washington High School.

The local expenditure required by the grant, approximately $100,000, will be within the approved budget of the career center, school officials said.

This grant will provide funding to improve existing and establish new occupational career education programs.

The career center is seeking to enhance 17 existing programs — Agriculture, CAPS, Culinary, Automotive Technology, Building Trades, Business, Marketing, Collision Repair, Health Occupations, Information Technology, Machine Tool, Practical Nursing, Teaching Careers, PLTW Engineering Year 3 and 4, PLTW Bio Medical Year 3 and 4, PLTW Computer Science Year 2, and Welding — and establish new coursework in Industrial Arts/Introduction to Building Trades.

The grant specifics give priority to these programs based on occupational demand data provided by MERIC (Missouri Economic Research and Information Center).

School officials said approval of this grant will assist in funding new technologies and curriculum updates based on program advisory board recommendations.

In October and November, representatives of each program met with their advisory boards for a program review, employment outlook, industry trends, curriculum updates and technology/equipment upgrades.

The purpose of these meetings were to improve alignment with business and industry occupational training needs, and increase emphasis on specific training in high demand occupations that are in critical shortage.

In December, the career center administration met with each program leader with the emphasis to review semester coursework, and begin the enhancement budgeting process.

Each program also was asked to submit a 3- to 5-year plan and set goals (personal and program) with a growth mindset.

This allowed the administration to prioritize requests, seek appropriate technical professional development, establish a long-range plan on the rotation of equipment, and establish an organized budget plan.

The school board was provided with a spreadsheet to compare the previous two years’ requests.

The career center also is seeking additional partnerships with local companies and organizations to further develop programs.