Simulated Workplace: Vocational Education in the 21st Century

Students in the greenhouse grow vegetables and herbs using a hydroponic system. The harvest is used by the Culinary Arts department to prepare meals for students and teachers.

Leaders from our region’s Career and Tech Education Centers (CTEs) and WDB staff are embarking on an exciting new classroom model called Simulated Workplace. This approach to learning was developed in West Virginia by Dr. Kathy D’Antoni.








Good Gauley Coffee Company, the CTE’s on-site coffee shop. The Culinary Arts students roast the coffee, develop recipes, and even package the coffee for sale to the community. The sign pictured here was created by the Construction Trades students.

Earlier this month, WDB staff, CTE leaders, and local businesses visited Nicholas County Career and Technical Education Center in Craigsville, West Virginia. As a result of adopting the Simulated Workplace model, the school has reported a 97% attendance rate and only three discipline issues for the 2021-2022 school year. West River Conveyors (one of our area’s local manufacturers) sent two representatives on the school tour. “We were sold at the door,” they said. “Who do we need to call? [Simulated Workplace] is… what we need our kids to be learning.”






“We were sold at the door. Who do we need to call? This is exactly what we need our kids to be learning.”

– West Rivers Conveyors Staff

Classrooms at the center are now functioning businesses, and students are entrepreneurs and leaders. Each trade functions as its own business by creating, marketing, and selling goods to the public. Students are like employees: they must apply to the program of their choice, learn to work with each other and their customers, and undergo mandatory drug testing to remain in the program. Thanks to the classroom design, students are responsible and hold each other accountable. The Simulated Workplace model is now used widely throughout West Virginia, but it has quickly become a best practice among CTEs across the nation.

The school year is winding down, but WDB staff plan to take a group of small- and medium-sized businesses to the facility in the new school year to see how these programs operate. The Thompson Charitable Foundation has provided funding for us to offer the tours and provide some planning and marketing assistance to schools in our region. We expect that many will reach out to the Governor and local representatives to find funding for these programs. This summer, the Boys and Girls Club of Central Appalachia will begin implementing Simulated Workplace during their annual STEM Camp. Gradual implementation will start in the next school year at Ridgeview High in Dickenson County, with a full rollout the following year. As interest and resources increase, we expect all CTEs in the Virginia Career Works – Southwest Region will implement the Simulated Workplace model. Our neighbors in the New River/Mount Rogers region have also expressed interest.

You can find additional information about Simulated Workplace here.