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Career education in Middlesex County outlined at MCVTS meeting

Career education in Middlesex County outlined at MCVTS meeting

A panel of leaders of business, industry, labor and academia was convened Jan. 29 by the Middlesex County Vocational and Technical Schools to assess the status of career and technical education in the county.

Among the 33 people in attendance on the MCVTS East Brunswick Campus were Superintendent of Schools Dianne Veilleux, administrators, teachers and students from the district, and representatives from the Old Bridge and Woodbridge school districts, Middlesex County government, Rutgers University and NJIT.

The Comprehensive Local Needs Assessment meeting is required every two years by the federal Perkins Act, which will provide $22 million this year for vocational education in New Jersey. But Sean McDonald, MCVTS director of career and technical education, said such advisory and evaluation efforts are ongoing in the district to bring together resources and reach out to the community for advice.

“This is something we have done for a long time,” he said. “Career and technical education always requires advisory committees.”

As outlined by McDonald and Adam Recktenwald, MCVTS supervisor of career and technical education, the goals of the Perkins program are to align CTE programs to the labor market, foster collaboration, strengthen the teacher pipeline, expand guidance and counseling for students, promote innovative strategies, support state and local improvement, encourage equitable access for students, and build and use evidence for improvement.

McDonald said while MCVTS offers 34 career majors on its five campuses, the other public school districts in the county also provide vocational education.

“We all work together and kind of feed off each other,” he said.

McDonald and Recktenwald outlined a number of collaborations that have been developed to benefit MCVTS students, including a pre-apprentice program with the Carpenters Union, an apprenticeship program to train technicians to work in new-car dealerships, and new majors in pre-engineering and advanced manufacturing, global logistics and supply-chain management, and music performance and technology.

They articulated a goal of forecasting areas in which there will be job growth and developing programs to address employer needs.

“Developing partnerships takes time,” Recktenwald said, noting that the Perkins assessment is a two-year process that will include follow-up meetings.               

Several of the participants stressed that specialized training at the secondary school level is essential for many of the high-demand and well-paying jobs available to graduates. Sean O’Connor of Fire and Safety Services in South Plainfield, which manufactures firefighting equipment, said internships allow automotive technology students to obtain the specialized training needed for the industry.

McDonald said a goal might be to start students thinking about careers even earlier.

“It would be wonderful to have the middle schools talking about careers,” McDonald said.

Participants were invited to tour the pre-engineering and advanced manufacturing classroom following the meeting. McDonald also invited attendees to join MCVTS advisory committees and to be judges at the upcoming Tech Expo, when students demonstrate their career skills.

“It was informative to listen to the needs of our regional partners for in-demand programs and skills,” McDonald said. “Their willingness to share ideas and resources to develop even more opportunities for our students is exciting.”