By Tim Ryan

The Virginia Department of Education has recognized the York County School Division (YCSD) as a recipient of the prestigious K-12 Innovation Grant. This funding will facilitate a partnership between YCSD and Virginia Peninsula Community College (VPCC, formerly Thomas Nelson Community College) to provide a unique dual enrollment program for high school students. The program will enable students to obtain a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) remote pilots license and a career studies certificate before graduating high school.

Starting in the 2023-24 academic year, high school students enrolled in the dual enrollment program can access the newly designed Unmanned Aircraft Systems course through YCSD and the UMS 107: Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) Remote Pilot Ground School at VPCC. The innovative curriculum aims to equip students with skills and knowledge to excel in the rapidly expanding drone industry.

Beyond the classroom, the dual enrollment program offers work-based learning experiences, giving students a competitive edge in meeting the demands of a growing labor market. Students who complete VPCC’s UMS 107 and UMS 111 courses will receive a total of six college credits, while also earning one high school credit. Upon finishing the program, students are expected to obtain their FAA Part 107 remote pilot’s license.

The K-12 Innovation Grant will contribute to the development of a cutting-edge curriculum, purchase of instructional materials, and acquisition of drone equipment. With this comprehensive program, YCSD and VPCC are fostering a future-ready workforce and offering students an unprecedented opportunity to gain valuable experience and qualifications in an emerging field.

This groundbreaking partnership between YCSD and VPCC exemplifies the potential of collaborative efforts in preparing students for successful careers in high-demand sectors. By investing in innovative education programs, the Virginia Department of Education continues to strengthen the region’s talent pipeline and contribute to the Commonwealth’s economic growth.

The dual enrollment program comes at a crucial time as companies like DroneUp continue to expand in the region and seek qualified candidates to fill numerous job openings. This initiative will ensure that the local talent pool is equipped with the necessary skills and certifications to meet the growing demands of the drone industry, supporting the continued growth and success of regional businesses.