With economic opportunities on the horizon, Burdette stressed the need for more qualified in-state professionals, pointing to the state's energy production capabilities.
"I work a lot with companies that come to West Virginia and they love West Virginia workers. They think they're loyal and have a strong work ethic. But, they don't have a lot of confidence in our bench because they're afraid it doesn't run deep enough," he said. "That concerns me because we are very much on the cusp of an economic opportunity that we haven't seen in our lifetime.
"But, if we don't have the people to do the job, we're going to have a hard time in this state," he said.
Phares said the state Board of Education has a special focus on career and technical pathways and plans to embed math and English credits into those students' curriculum as early as next year.
The state board has also teamed up with the Southern Regional Education Board to pilot preparatory programs that focus on energy and power courses. The state is also eyeing alternative power and informatics programs currently used in South Carolina and Kentucky.
Informatics is the practice of information processing, or the science of processing data for storage and retrieval.
"People keep saying these are new initiatives, but they aren't. We forget what it is that we do. Our common goal has always been about vocational education. The reason that kids go to school is so that when they get on the other end, they can get a job," Phares said. "So, these things that we're calling new initiatives are actually just reactions to the way the world is changing around us."
Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.m...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.