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Virginia Vocational and Technical Schools

Virginia faces a looming skills gap for the largest collection of occupations in the state: middle-skill jobs. These occupations do not require a four-year degree, but some training and education beyond high school is usually recommended. According to the National Skills Coalition, nearly half of all jobs in Virginia are middle-skill and will account for 46 percent of all job openings in the state between 2010 and 2020. The gap? Only 40 percent of the state's workers have training required for middle-skill jobs.

The growing job market for people with middle-skill training means it is a great time for prospective students to consider completing a vocational education in Virginia. Vocational education -- more commonly known as Career and Technical Education (CTE) -- allows students to align their academic skills with workplace readiness skills. The Virginia Department of Education organizes those academic and occupational fields into a group of 16 clusters and associated career pathways.

Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources

Hospitality and Tourism

Architecture and Construction

Human Service

Arts, Audio/Video Technology and Communications

Information Technology

Business, Management and Administration

Law, Public Safety, Corrections and Security

Education and Training



Marketing Sales and Service

Government and Public Administration

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics

Health Science

Transportation, Distribution and Logistics

Vocational educational trends in Virginia

Vocational education traditionally includes credential, diploma, certificate, and associate degree programs. These programs can generally be completed in two or fewer years of study and are offered by Virginia vocational schools, community colleges, technical and four-year universities. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics reveals that more than 46,000 vocational academic awards were granted to students during the 2012-2013 school year.

The most common programs were associate degrees, followed by programs that lasted at least one, but less than two academic years. The most popular vocational fields of study in Virginia included the following:

  • Health care: 13,082
  • Liberal arts and humanities: 12,299
  • Business and marketing: 4,611
  • Computer and information sciences: 2,197
  • Personal and culinary sciences: 1,985

Career opportunities for graduates of Virginia technical schools

According to data from the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry, the vocational-related fields expected to see the largest employment gains between 2012 and 2022 include:

  • Healthcare support: 33.61%
  • Computer and mathematical: 26.47%
  • Personal care and service: 25.15%

However, an additional seven industry areas are expected to experience job growth of 15 percent of greater during that time. Below is a list of the ten fastest growing career fields in the state between 2012 and 2022:



Employment Change


Percent Change


Health Care Support



Computer and Mathematical



Personal Care and Service



Healthcare Practitioners and Technical



Community and Social Services



Construction and Extraction



Business and Financial Operations



Protective Service



Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media



Education, Training, and Library



Source: Virginia Department of Labor and Industry

Prospective vocational students in Virginia may want to turn their attention to health care and related professions. A review of employment data shows that 18 of the state's 25 fastest-growing vocational fields are in the health care industry. Below is a table of the ten health care careers expected to experience the best job gains in Virginia between 2012 and 2022.


2012-22 Employment Growth

2014 Average Salary

Occupational Therapy Assistants



Physical Therapist Assistants



Dental Hygienists



Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics



Diagnostic Medical Sonographers



Ophthalmic Medical Technicians






Medical Assistants



Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians



Dental Assistants



Source: Projections Central and Virginia Department of Labor and Industry

Expert advice on vocational schools in Virginia

To learn more about the role of vocational education in Virginia's job market, we sat down with Jerry Stewart, Workforce Development Coordinator for the Virginia Beach Department of Economic Development. He has 28 years of experience in workforce development and is currently the chair of the Virginia Beach City Public Schools General Advisory Council for Career and Technical Education.

What are the benefits of career and technical education?

Career and Technical Education programs provide skill sets and knowledge opportunities for all students, whether they are considering careers after graduation, pursuing higher education or seeking a combination of both. If the student's interest is going directly into the workforce, the industry certifications available with Career and Technical Education program provide verification of the skills applicable to the employer. CTE programs also offer the students opportunities to explore multiple career pathways of interest.

How does CTE support workforce and economic development in Virginia?

CTE is a vital partner in the success of workforce and economic development across the country. In Virginia Beach, several of our high-performance manufacturers need highly skilled employees to work in their advanced manufacturing facilities. CTE, and often times, post-secondary training, prepare graduates to go directly into these businesses with industry recognized certifications. With the expansion of dual enrollment at the secondary level, many high school graduates will have several credit hours upon graduation. CTE, along with their economic development partners, can increase the awareness of the availability of high paying jobs in the many different technical fields

Are there any CTE career clusters more in-demand than others in the state?

Manufacturing skills appear to be in demand in many parts of the United States. The integration of even more Computer Numeric Control (CNC) machines in manufacturing facilities is driving the demand for higher skills. In Virginia Beach, new clusters identified by economic development and implemented with CTE programming, include entrepreneurship and cyber security.

In Virginia, how do employers view individuals with CTE or trade education, training and degrees?

CTE graduates are in high demand, particularly students with industry certifications. Employers are confident with the skills of these potential employees. Virginia Beach City Public Schools' students obtained over 10,000 industry recognized certifications for the 2014-2015 year, and Economic Development markets this information to existing and new business prospects.

Are career fields that require CTE training expected to grow well into the future?

As a result of my involvement in workforce development, CTE at the local level, and CTE at the state level, I agree with the projections for education required for future jobs. I suspect that past 2020, even a higher percentage of jobs will require some postsecondary education. I believe CTE training will continue to grow because quality CTE programs have the ability to quickly adapt and change to different training/skill needs in a business community. Strong CTE and economic/workforce development partnerships facilitate this because economic development can inform CTE administrators of the needs of their business community.

Do you have any advice for new CTE students?

Explore the CTE programs offered at your school. If you are uncertain of your career aspirations or plans for higher education, CTE can prepare you with skills that get you a high paying job that will allow you time to explore potential careers prior incurring substantial college debt. Additionally, if you are certain that the four-year college track is your aspiration; many CTE programs can better prepare you to be successful in college/university. Industry credentials have also been proven to better prepare you for the college experience, often times even opening up part-time job opportunities while attending college.

About the Expert

Jerry Stewart is the Workforce Development Coordinator for the Virginia Beach Department of Economic Development.


  1. ACTE, Issue Brief, https://www.acteonline.org/uploadedFiles/Assets_and_Documents/Global/files/Publications/Transitions.pdf
  2. Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, Recovery: Job Growth and Education Requirements Through 2020, https://cew.georgetown.edu/report/recovery-job-growth-and-education-requirements-through-2020/
  3. Interview with Jerry Stewart, 7/31/2015
  4. National Center for Education Statistics, http://www.nces.com/ipeds
  5. National Skills Coalition, Virginia, http://www.nationalskillscoalition.org/resources/publications/file/middle-skill-fact-sheets-2014/NSC-Minnesota-MiddleSkillFS-2014.pdf
  6. Projections Central, Virginia, http://www.projectionscentral.com
  7. Virginia Career View, Career Clusters, http://www.vaview.vt.edu/clusters/
  8. Virginia Department of Labor and Industry, Employment Projections, https://data.virginialmi.com/vosnet/Default.aspx
Vocational Schools in Virginia
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