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Last summer, before students even began to think about the new school year, three Athens High School educators signed up to get more schooling themselves. In this case, it was to learn the specifics of how to become NCCER instructors. NCCER stands for National Center for Construction Education and Research. Having such instructors means students in the HVAC, ag mechanics and construction management programs are able to earn important certifications.

These certifications are internationally recognized and industry certified,” said Career and Technical Education Director Ward Wilbanks. “Industry experts decide what skills and knowledge these candidates need to be certified, and that’s what we teach.”

Wilbanks noted that earning NCCER certifications requires more than book knowledge; it requires performance tests in which students demonstrate their skills hands-on.

“What I always tell kids is that the certification won’t get you the job, but it’s most definitely a foot in the door,” he said. “Our two graduates who were hired a week ago at Clayton Homes were readily accepted because they’d gone through the certification process. That means they require less training.”

In addition to the NCCER certified trainers, AHS has offered a variety of other state certifications for many years. This most recent school year, 79 students earned NCCER core certifications; four earned pharmacy technician certifications; six earned mechanical engineering technology certifications; eight earned HVAC certifications; 60 earned ServSafe food handler certifications; and five earned core or expert Microsoft Word specialist certifications.

Athens ISD partners with Trinity Valley Community College in the HVAC and mechanical engineering technology programs. AISD also partners with the college so that Athens High School students can earn associate's degrees from TVCC through the Pinnacle Early College High School program or through dual credit — at no cost to the student. In May, 44 AHS students graduated from TVCC.

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