Seven New Jersey county vocational-technical school districts have launched new career and technical education programs in high-demand industries this fall, thanks to new state grants to support partnerships with businesses, colleges and universities, government, and local high schools.
More than 165 students are enrolled in the first year of the innovative programs, funded by a $3 million state grant approved by the state Legislature and Governor Christie last year. Additional students will be enrolled in each program over the next three years.
And thanks to the Legislature’s willingness to commit an additional $3 million for a second round of grants in the 2015-2016 budget, county vocational-technical schools are gearing up to launch more new partnerships next year.
“This is a great example of New Jersey’s government, business and education communities all working together towards a common goal: Making career and technical education an engine that drives our state’s economy and serves all types of students,” said Timothy McCorkell, president of the New Jersey Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools (NJCCVTS) and superintendent of the Monmouth County Vocational School District.
In January of last year, Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto announced that he would make career and technical education a major priority during the 2014-2015 legislative session.
The bill establishing the grant program was part of a comprehensive legislative package the Speaker introduced to expand CTE opportunities throughout the state. It received enthusiastic support from Senators and Assembly members of both parties and was signed by Governor Christie in December.
“We must make it clear that there are also many well-paying careers that can be launched with an industry credential or an associate’s degree,” Speaker Prieto said.
“As our economy begins to grow again, employers will look to our county vocational-technical schools to meet this need, and we need to make sure our students are ready to go. These grants, along with the laws I sponsored to improve vocational education throughout the state, are a great step in the right direction,” he said.
The grants to provide start-up funds for new programs that could be launched in available facilities for the 2015-2016 school year were awarded by the NJ Department of Education in April.
“State policy leaders were enthusiastic about funding creative new CTE opportunities that involved close partnerships with businesses, government agencies and other high schools, and dual credit agreements with community colleges and four-year institutions,” McCorkell said. “They were also eager to support programs that would prepare future employees for careers in high-demand fields.”
Three of the programs launched this fall involve 21st century manufacturing and engineering-related subjects, and another is focused on advanced computer science. Two of the new programs are aimed at preparing students for careers in law enforcement, firefighting and emergency services, and one centers on culinary arts.
Bergen County Technical Schools (BCTS) launched Applied Technology High School, a full-time, four-year school focusing on advanced manufacturing and engineering technology.
Funded with a $600,000 grant and located on the Paramus campus of Bergen County College (BCC), the program is operated through a partnership with BCC and New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT).
Business partners include Howmedica Osteonics Corp (Stryker Orthopedics), Triangle Manufacturing, Sandvik Coromant, the Commerce & Industry Association of New Jersey and the Bergen Workforce Investment Board.
With a curriculum centered on “smart machines,” students will learn to apply math, science and technology to hands-on projects in the fields of automation, electronics and advanced manufacturing.
“There was a great deal of excitement about this program throughout Bergen County and in the business community. We had 31 seats available for the freshman class and 65 students applied,” said Assistant Superintendent Andrea Sheridan. When all four classes are enrolled, the total population at the school will be about 100 students.
“These are students whose interests were not well-aligned with the existing CTE programs at any of our other schools: They are academically proficient, but their main passion is taking things apart to see how they work, and using that information to create other things. These young people have the interest and aptitude for successful careers in the constantly-innovating world of advanced manufacturing,” Sheridan said.
Because advanced manufacturing is a global industry with a strong presence in Asia, all students will take Mandarin as their foreign language. Other courses will include physics, various engineering disciplines – such as robotics, CAD and aerospace engineering – and internships and other work-related learning experiences with the program’s business partners.
Students will receive college credits for many of their courses. By the time they graduate from high school, they will have completed 23 credits towards an associate’s degree at BCC. They will be able to complete their degrees at BCC in an accelerated time, and will also be eligible to enter NJIT’s electrical engineering program as sophomores.
The Camden County Technical School District (CCTS) is using its $443,711 grant to create a new Law and Public Safety Academy grade 12 option.
Students will spend two days a week at the Camden County Emergency Training Center in Blackwood for technical training, and three days a week at the Blackwood campus of Camden County College (CCC) taking their academic courses and earning college credits.
The program is operated through partnerships with CCC and the Camden County Police Department.
“We have been planning for this for some time, but this grant will speed that process up dramatically and greatly increase access for students in Camden County,” said CCTS assistant superintendent John Marcellus.
Ten students, many of whom are Camden city residents, are enrolled for the 2015-2016 school year. Enrollment will expand to 50 students in 2016-2017 and to 60 students in 2017-2018.
“There is a huge job growth projection in the law enforcement field in our part of the state, so we are excited about the high number of young people who will be prepared for employment and have up to 30 college credits under their belts when they graduate from high school as a result of this expanded partnership opportunity.” Marcellus said.
Hudson County Schools of Technology (HCST) launched a new culinary arts partnership with Harrison High School (HHS) and Hudson County Community College (HCCC) with its $368,484 grant.
Twenty Harrison sophomores are enrolled in the new program, which will be expanded to include juniors and seniors in future years. Harrison is renovating part of its building to create state-of-the-art working kitchens as the instructional site.
“We really need more quality CTE programs at our comprehensive high schools,” said Harrison Director of Personnel and Human Resources Dr. James Doran. “When we heard that this grant program encouraged county vocational-technical schools to partner with local high schools, we reached out to HCST and asked to work with them.”
Before coming to HHS, Dr. Doran was the principal of the adult high school at HCST, and he is a strong proponent of career and technical education.
“Students in CTE programs learn the technical skills they need to get a job, but they also acquire the employability skills – like time management, problem-solving and teamwork – that help them succeed throughout their careers and in college,” he said. “If we had the resources and the room, we’d have several dedicated CTE programs at HHS. But this is a great start.
“Culinary arts was a good fit for us. Many of our students work after school and on the weekends at local restaurants, so they are familiar with the food business and would love to become chefs. They are also excited about graduating from high school with college credits if they want to continue their education with an associate’s degree,” Dr. Doran said.
Hunterdon County Vocational School District (HCVSD) created a full-time computer science and software engineering program in partnership with Raritan Valley Community College, Kean University, Rutgers University and Rowan University, and the Hunterdon Health Care System. Hunterdon’s grant is $590,096.
Located at Delaware Valley High School (DVHS) in Frenchtown, the curriculum will follow the model established by Project Lead the Way (PLW), a nationally-recognized non-profit organization specializing in computer science, engineering and biomedical science education.
“This is not your traditional high school IT program, where students just learn a few computer languages,” said Jessica Cangelosi-Hade, HCVSD Director of Curriculum, Computer Science and the Software Engineering Academy. “The students here will be the people who develop the computer languages of the future.
“Internships with local businesses will allow them to experience many different aspects of computer science. Their capstone project will be solving a real-world problem, and their courses will concentrate on matters like simulation modeling, large data projections, artificial intelligence and cyber-security. And they will be receiving both industry credentials and college credits for much of that work,” Cangelosi-Hade said.
Thirty-one students from throughout Hunterdon County are enrolled in the program for the 2015-2016 school year. Future classes will consist of about 20 students.
“Our superintendent and the staff at HCVSD started working on this project long before the grants were proposed,” Cangelosi-Hade said.
“Our Freeholders and our board have supported the idea of a full-time CTE program in our county, but we do not have the space at our all-shared-time Hunterdon County Polytech buildings in Flemington, so the timing of the grant to support a partnership with DVHS was perfect,” she said.
Mercer County Technical Schools (MCTS) opened a four-year, full-time Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Academy in partnership with Mercer County Community College (MCCC). Business partners include national and international manufacturers with facilities in the Trenton area, including KNF Neuberger, Palfinger, Nordson EFD, Guam, Inc. and Lawrence Mold and Tool Corporation.
“Trenton Makes, the World Takes is not an out-dated marketing slogan,” said MCTS Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Dana Hice-DePugh. “Companies in this region make innovative products that are sold all over the world.
“We’ve established great business partnerships with 30 of them, and they tell us that they are having a very difficult time finding employees with the technical knowledge and skills needed for high-paying careers in advanced manufacturing,” she said.
The curriculum follows the Project Lead the Way (PLW) advanced manufacturing model and also focuses on mechatronics, an emerging field at the heart of manufacturing’s resurgence that combines mechanical, electrical, control and computer systems.
The 31 students enrolled in the program will take all their courses at MCCC, many for dual credit. During their senior year, they will have internships with the local business partners.
MCTS worked with local community organizations to explain the new program to students and parents and encourage applications. The freshman class includes students from throughout the county.
“We and our business partners are as excited as the students are,” said Hice-DePugh. “It’s a very diverse, energetic group, with a strong female presence.”
The STEM Academy, funded with a $300,000 grant, is MCTS’ second full-time school. The Health Science Academy graduated its first class in 2014.
The Morris County Vocational School District (MCVSD) is using its $353,807 grant to launch a shared-time (grades 11-12) program in engineering design and advanced manufacturing in partnership with the County College of Morris (CCM) and the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT).
The focus of the curriculum is to provide students with a strong foundation in the design, materials science, electronics and computer programming aspects of the manufacturing industry.
“Our business partners have been telling us that they really need highly-skilled people in 21st century manufacturing in this part of the state, but we are a small school, and we did not have the space to implement a comprehensive program ourselves,” said MCVSD director of curriculum and programs Shari Castelli.
“But we wanted to create a clear pathway to a successful career in this field – high school diploma, associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree – so we did a lot of research on programs in other states and developed a model that worked for CCM and NJIT in terms of college credits,” she said.
The 21 students enrolled in the program will attend their local high schools for academic classes in the morning and take their engineering and manufacturing classes at CCM in the afternoon. They will graduate with 32 college credits from CCM and NJIT, and will have the option to complete their associate’s degrees at CCM or to enroll at NJIT with advanced standing.
Business partners include the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program, Inc., National Manufacturing Co., Inc., Siemens, the ManufactureNJ Talent Network and the New Jersey Business & Industry Association.
The program is also affiliated with the prestigious NASA HUNCH (High school students United with NASA to Create Hardware) program, an instructional partnership through which students create hardware for the international space station using materials, equipment and mentoring provided by NASA.
Salem County Vocational Technical Schools (SCVTS) created a new, four-year Law Enforcement/Firefighter/EMT Academy in partnership with Salem County Community College, the Salem County Sheriff’s Office, the Salem County Prosecutor’s Office, the Salem County Fire Academy and the Salem County Office of Emergency Management.
“Student and parent interest in law enforcement and emergency management has been growing in this part of the state. It’s been one of our highest-enrollment programs over the past several years,” said Salem County Technical High School principal Jason Helder.
“We already have great working relationships with the county officials who support our programs, and it seemed like a perfect fit to use this $343,902 grant as a platform to take a great partnership to the next level,” Helder said.
The 25 new students enrolled in the program will take their technical classes at the Salem County Emergency Management Complex in Woodstown. Arrangements are pending for them to take dual credit academic courses at Salem County College.
The curriculum includes industry-based certifications in 911 communications, EMT and firefighting. Students will receive first aid and rescue training based on the New Jersey Department of Health EMT standards and will be trained in accordance with the New Jersey Department of Fire Safety standards for Community Emergency Response Team (TeenCERT) and First Responder certifications.
“It’s a great start for students who want to pursue careers as police officers, state troopers, criminal investigators, emergency dispatchers or EMTs, or who want to pursue degrees in law enforcement at a two- or four-year college,” said Helder.