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DARLINGTON, S.C. – On the heels of earning a No. 8 ranking statewide for college or career readiness, the Darlington County School District (DCSD) continued to highlight the success of growing career preparedness initiatives in the district.

While all schools aim to prepare students for success after high school, DCSD’s primary hub for providing work-based education and opportunity takes place at the Darlington County Institute of Technology (DCIT).

The districtwide career and technology center is brimming this year with an enrollment of more than 620 students from every corner of Darlington County. DCIT features 24 certified Career and Technology Education Pathways, providing a varied spectrum of options for students to get ahead of the curve:

  • Agriculture Mechanics
  • Horticulture
  • Carpentry
  • Electricity
  • Digital Art and Design
  • Graphic Communications
  • Administrative Services
  • General Management
  • Accounting
  • Business Finance
  • Health Science
  • Machine Technology
  • Welding Technology
  • Mechatronics Technologies
  • Marketing Communications
  • Marketing Management
  • Project Lead the Way Pre-Engineering
  • Automotive Collision
  • Automotive Technology
  • Programming and Software Development
  • Web and Digital Communication
  • Networking Systems
  • Computer and Information Assurance System Security
  • Game and Interactive Media Design

All of the pathways are taught by qualified professionals with experience in each specific field. Professional certifications and credentials are available as well, providing student completers with important and useful tools when entering the workforce.

The school projects that up to 250 students will become completers this school year, meaning they will successfully navigate at least three units in one of the previously mentioned pathways. This projection would pair with the 246 completers in 2022-23.

Of last year’s completers at DCIT, 243 met the state’s criteria for career-readiness and earned an industry credential. Additionally, completers earned more than 700 professional certifications. When considering all students at DCIT, not just completers, they earned more than 1,300 professional certifications last year. 

Working alongside DCIT as an institution, the district’s successful Key to Career program continues to place students in paid internships each semester. Since 2019, local businesses have taken on 293 DCSD student-interns who have earned $325,305 in wages. In all, 87 business partners have worked with the Key to Career program in that time and the district expects to place 75 interns this spring.

Elsewhere in DCSD, career specialists and local industries are working to reach students in even earlier grades than high school. Launched in the spring of 2023, the district’s ASCEND program identifies eighth graders interested in career readiness and partners with local businesses – this spring included Duke Energy, Fiber Industries, Nucor Corporation, and Hogge Precision Parts Co. – to provide in-depth tours. Students got a chance to meet employees and administrators at the companies, explore their work spaces and ask questions about a career in each field.

As with the Key to Career program, the district’s business engagement coordinator says the ASCEND program is expanding. Sonoco Products Company joined as a partner this fall, and the program expects 10 total organizational partners by spring. A total of 135 students participated in ASCEND in its first year, and an additional 150 are expected to participate in the upcoming spring. The district is also in the planning phase of bringing experiences like these to students in the fifth grade. While the initial focus on the program was manufacturing professions, the program will be onboarding partners in the healthcare and public service fields as well.