A distinguished graduate and the CEO of a manufacturing company both praised vocational education at the annual Advisory Committee Appreciation Dinner of the Middlesex County Vocational and Technical Schools.
Judiann Chartier, headquarters counsel of the Communications Workers of America in Washington, D.C., and a 1983 graduate of East Brunswick Vo-Tech, urged 300 guests on the MCVTS Piscataway Campus, to support vocational education, citing the success of her family – four of her brothers, her sister, a cousin and her niece also graduated from MCVTS schools.
“As my family demonstrates, it works and it works very well,” she said.
Andrew Campbell, CEO of Eastern Millwork Inc. of Jersey City, which manufactures building components, said Americans have been slow to recognize the nation’s potential to grow as a manufacturing center.
“The U.S. manufacturing sector is larger than the economy of India,” he said. “Americans make a lot of things.”
But Campbell said the American education system needs to “realign” to provide the “human capital” needed to fill today’s high-tech manufacturing jobs.
“I can’t take contracts because I can’t find the workforce,” he said.
Campbell is part of an initiative to launch an advanced manufacturing career major next fall on the MCVTS East Brunswick Campus. The committee he serves on was one of 28 advisory committees that met following the dinner.
Brian J. Loughlin, superintendent of schools, said the advice of the business, industry and labor representatives on the committees is needed to keep MCVTS programs and curriculum current with the needs of employers. Recounting the 100-year history of the district, he said MCVTS accepts the challenge of changing with the times with the help of the advisory committees.
“We’re not the same vocational schools we were 100 years ago,” Loughlin said. “And we are not the same vocational schools we will be five years from now.”
Sean McDonald, MCVTS director of career and technical education, said the “close collaboration” of the committees is “critical” to the success of the district’s students.
The guest list also included parents and students in honor of the district’s centennial. Posters and a display of memorabilia told the story of the district from 1914 to the present.
Scott Decker of South Plainfield, a 1981 graduate of Piscataway Vo-Tech, said he has been employed as a diesel mechanic steadily since he left school.
“They hired me before I even graduated,” he said. “This school gave me the first inkling of what I wanted to do. A lot of companies want these kids.”
His son Gene is now a junior in the auto collision program in Piscataway.
“I can actually learn something ahead of time – before I get out there” in the workforce, he said.
Phyllis Colabella, who teaches in the adult cosmetology program in Piscataway and attended with some of her students, said the advisory committees provide a way “to network with our colleagues and share ideas.”
“This way we keep current,” she said.
The Middlesex County Vocational and Technical School District, the first full-time county vocational school district in the nation, has seven schools on five campuses, in East Brunswick, Edison, Piscataway, Perth Amboy and Woodbridge.
Over the last three years, Perth Amboy Vo-Tech, the Edison Academy and the Woodbridge Academy have been named National Blue Ribbon Schools. The East Brunswick Campus was just named a National Green Ribbon Schools in recognition of its “green” curriculum and sustainable building management practices.
Contact: Sean McDonald, director of career and technical education, (732) 257-3300, Ext. 19412