By Claire Lowe
NORTHFIELD — By the time Claire Sebastian was in eighth grade, she knew that she wanted to go into medicine.
Now, the 17-year-old from Egg Harbor Township is gaining actual work experience as part of a structured learning experience through her high school.
State law allows for structured learning experiences (SLE) for students who are 16 years or older to gain real-life career skills as part of their school day.
“The goal of a structured learning experience is to enhance what students learn in the classroom and the career and technical education (CTE) program setting by enabling them to put their skills into practice in the real world,” said Judy Savage, executive director of the New Jersey Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools.
The state of New Jersey has been promoting career-focused student training for several years as 53 percent of the state’s labor market is made up of jobs that do not require a bachelor’s degree but only 37 percent of workers are qualified.
Earlier this week, voters in the state approved a $500 million bond referendum of which the majority would be used to expand county vocational schools.
Savage said there has always been a recognition of the importance of CTE programs, but the economic need is now more apparent than ever…