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MCVTS virtual meeting examines regional career education needs

MCVTS virtual meeting examines regional career education needs

More than 30 people attended a virtual meeting to assess whether regional needs for career and technical education are being met by the Middlesex County Vocational and Technical Schools and other county public school districts.

Among the districts represented were North Brunswick, South River, Woodbridge, Old Bridge, New Brunswick, Carteret and Sayreville. Attendees included representatives of Rutgers University, New Jersey Institute of Technology and Middlesex County College, and Genevieve Cross, a program development specialist for the state Department of Education, as well as a number of employers.

MCVTS administrators attending the two-hour Zoom video conference included Superintendent of Schools Dianne D. Veilleux.

Sean McDonald, MCVTS director of career and technical education, explained that the meeting is a requirement of the federal Perkins Act program, which provides funding for vocational education. It follows an initial meeting held in January on the MCVTS East Brunswick Campus.

“We look at our programs and say, ‘How can we make them better?’” McDonald said.

He said the goal is to determine priorities and strategies for secondary and post-secondary programs to align with labor needs in the region.

“We need your input to see if we are on track and if there are other things we can do,” McDonald said. “A lot of time we don’t talk enough together.

“We want to help each other, but sometimes we have to break down barriers to do it.”

McDonald outlined the goals of the Perkins Act program, including aligning career and technical education  programs to market data, fostering collaboration, strengthening the teacher pipeline, expanding guidance and counseling, promoting innovation, supporting local and state improvement, and encouraging equitable access to students.

He said preparing students for high-skill, high-wage and in-demand occupations should start at the middle-school level.

McDonald presented data about New Jersey’s employment sector, with health care, retail, transportation, distribution and logistics, and leisure and hospitality among the biggest industries. Transportation and material-moving jobs are tops in Middlesex County, he said.

“When we look at data, one of the important things to look at is a what’s missing” in career and technical education, he said.

Areas of employment that will be in demand in the near future include sustainable construction and advanced manufacturing, including robotic and drone technology.

Because the MCVTS annual advisory committee and dinner had to be canceled in April, 30 advisory committee meeting were held online during May, McDonald said.

He said additional efforts are needed to encourage nontraditional students to enter certain fields, such as females in construction and auto technology, and males in cosmetology.

John Cays, associate dean for academics at NJIT, said consideration must be given to how the employment landscape will change due to COVID-19. Lynn Warner, a manager for PSEG, pointed out that there will be future opportunities in sustainable energy, such as wind farms and solar generating.