DCIT Increases Enrollment
By Samantha Lyles, Editor, email@example.com
When Robbie Smith became director of the Darlington County Institute of Technology (DCIT) two years ago, there was a prevailing concern among members of the Darlington County Board of Education that the school – a state of the art technical education facility – was not serving enough students. But thanks to a more efficient schedule and improved awareness about their curriculum, DCIT’s enrollment numbers are steadily increasing.
Where a typical school day used to offer seven classes that run five days a week from August until June, Darlington County’s high schools now operate on a 4 by 4 schedule where classes last longer (about 90 minutes each) and the subjects change mid-year.
“You meet in four classes from August until Christmas, and then in spring you start new classes – like with college schedules – and take four more classes,” Smith explains. “Instead of doing seven classes a year like we have been doing, you can now take eight classes with four in the fall and four in the spring.”
This schedule change offers students the chance to take an additional elective class. It also gives Darlington County students more flexibility if they choose to pursue electives at DCIT, where they can earn work-ready credentials in skills ranging from welding to health care.
Smith says that the schedule change was a big help, but DCIT also needed to reach out to students and let them know about the unique learning opportunities that are available. This was accomplished through large events like the annual DCIT Interactive Career Fair, and through more personalized vocational discussions between teachers and students.
“We worked really hard to recruit. We met with guidance counselors and administrators at the schools, we set up events where students could come to DCIT and see our programs,” says Smith. “When guidance counselors and parents knew what we were offering, they thought it was a better idea for their kids to come out here.”
These marketing efforts were successful. Enrollment rose by about 100 students last year, and DCIT added another 150 students this year, bringing the total to around 680 students. Despite the school’s higher profile, Smith says there is still a widespread misconception that high schools don’t offer vocational electives like auto repair and carpentry anymore.
“Those classes didn’t go away, it just hasn’t been talked about as much. Over the last couple of generations, parents have gotten so fixated on their kids going to four-year colleges and universities that they feel their kids can’t be successful without that degree,” says Smith.
He notes that there are a number of growing employment fields where students with a background in technical and vocational education can earn a good living, and even when students choose to pursue vocational classes that does not preclude them from pursuing higher education.
“What we’re trying to do here is give kids more opportunities. If you come to DCIT and you’re a completer in welding or machine tool or auto tech, a lot of times you can go right out and get a job,” says Smith.
The number of DCIT students earning industrial certifications is on the rise, with 211 students earning 502 certifications. These certifications show a level of proven proficiency that can help students get jobs and earn higher pay right from the start.
Health Science students who earn their CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) credential at DCIT often find work in that field immediately, and can pay their way while pursuing a nursing degree or taking specialized medical technician courses. Smith adds that whether DCIT completers pursue further education at a technical college like Florence-Darlington Tech or at a four-year college or university, they can sometimes pair their earnings with grants and scholarships to graduate without any burdensome student debt.
To learn more about the Darlington County Institute of Technology, visit dcit.dcsdschools.org.