The first vocational-technical and business high school in the Charlotte area will open its doors Aug. 25 at 5745 Central Ave.
Entrepreneur High School is a nonprofit, tuition-free public charter school designed to prepare graduates to move directly into a profession or as a jump-start to college.
The N.C. State Board of Education granted approval for the new school at its January meeting.
According to Joel Medley, director of the N.C. Office of Charter Schools, the state currently oversees 127 charter schools. Of those, Entrepreneur High School is the only vocational charter school.
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EHS’s curriculum is focused on trades. It will feature hands-on studies and classroom instruction in nursing, automotive technology, entrepreneurship and a construction curriculum that will include carpentry, electrical, HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration), masonry and plumbing. The manufacturing curriculum includes computer numerically controlled machining, mechatronics and robotics, welding, renewable energy, drafting, technical design and 3-D printing.
Traditional subjects such as math and English will be taught as business applications, like business math and business English.
“This is a charter school dedicated to preparing students for a specific career,” said principal of EHS, Hans Plotseneder, known to his students as “Dr. Plots.”
“We expect to attract the whole spectrum, starting with students who consider dropping out or have done so, to exceptionally talented students,” Plotseneder said. “It’s for students who want to make good money after high school by starting their own business, without having to invest a fortune in a college education or (who) may plan college later.”
A typical class day will begin at 8 a.m. and continue until 3 p.m. with an extended day for tutoring, homework assistance, mentoring, remediation and student club activities. Internships are required.
Faculty members are either state- or industry-certified, and every teacher has had some experience in industry. According to Plotseneder, a significant number of instructors have strong business and training leader backgrounds.
According to a Jan. 16 article by Peter Downs in the Wall Street Journal, the apprentice model of vocational training has been used successfully in parts of Europe for many years. Savvy industries in the United States are starting to embrace the apprenticeship model as the demand for trained manufacturing and technological labor increases, the article said.
In Switzerland, 70 percent of 15- to 19-year-olds are in apprenticeship programs; Germany and Austria educate 65 percent and 55 percent, respectively. The article goes on to state that all three countries have youth unemployment rates less than half of America’s 16 percent.
“Having been a teacher in (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools) for 13 years and having seen how little high school graduates can offer for a job, on the one hand, and knowing how much more we could offer them,” said Plotseneder, “(I believed I was) required to do something about it.
“Furthermore, I myself attended such a school in Austria before acquiring a Ph.D.”
EHS enrollment for the first year is projected at 120 students in ninth grade and 60 in 10th grade. At the end of five years, administrators estimate an enrollment of 600 students in grades nine through 12.
“Like any other charter school, our success is measured by state-established criteria,” said Plotseneder. “Additionally, we measure our success in terms of percentage of graduates who are employed within 90 days of graduation. Our goal is 100 percent.”