Students and staff from three county vocational-technical schools highlighted the value of career and technical education for members of the New Jersey State Board of Education on February 6.
After recognizing February as national Career and Technical Education Month, state officials heard from students getting a head start on careers and college and from educators who are forging partnerships with employers, colleges and local school districts to expand CTE in New Jersey.
Students from the Academy for Math, Science and Engineering, a longstanding partnership between the Morris County Vocational School District and Morris Hills Regional, told state leaders that the rigorous academic coursework, coupled with internships and research experiences not usually available to high schoolers, have refined their career goals and set them up for success in college.
“I was very lucky,” said Erin Foody, a NJIT junior from Rockaway who graduated last spring with a high school diploma from Morris County’s Academy for Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing and an associate degree in applied science from County College of Morris, along with CTE certifications. “I could not be happier with the doors this program opened for me.”
Recognizing the extreme demand for high quality CTE programs in his county, Scott Moffitt, superintendent of the Morris County Vocational School District and president of the NJ Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools, explained how he was able to expand CTE experiences in STEM, health care, manufacturing, cybersecurity, environmental science, and performing arts in partnership with local school districts and the county college.
Another example of innovative collaboration for CTE came from Monmouth County Vocational School District, which launched a new program for Advanced Manufacturing and Robotics at the Eatontown headquarters of Festo Didactics. Students spend half of each day in classes and hands-on learning at the company, which has allowed the district to expand access to manufacturing training without a big investment in facilities and equipment.
“I wanted to do something where I could have a program and some hands-on benefit. It works out perfectly because now because I am doing both – I am learning and I am working,” said Jordan Varcadipane, from Monmouth Regional High School, whose work-based learning experience soldering circuit boards supports his classroom learning and projects in manufacturing.
The presentations by these and other school districts were capped off by a lunch prepared and served by the culinary students from Perth Amboy Tech in Middlesex County, which was the first high school to earn the Green Restaurant Certification for their sustainable practices. Their creative menu of farm-to-table salads, locally sourced dishes, including short-ribs, cod and root vegetables, followed by irresistible desserts, was applauded by state officials and invited guests.