Career Classroom: State granting another $37M to expand career and technical education

Employers looking to create a pipeline of qualified candidates, and students looking to pursue a career-focused education to fill that pipeline, just got a boost from another state investment in career and technical education. 

Six county vocational-technical schools were recently named recipients of second-round Career and Technical Education expansion grants — totaling about $37 million. That is good news for New Jersey’s students, who will benefit from more seats available in career-focused high school programs, as well as for employers in a range of industries who seek skilled workers.

The announcement comes nearly a year after the state awarded the first round of grants — a total of $220 million — to 15 county vocational-technical schools. The funding was approved by New Jersey voters with the passing of the Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act in 2018.

Both Burlington County Institute of Technology and Salem County Vocational Technical School District only applied for second-round funding to meet economic and student demand. BCIT was the largest grant awardee this round, with roughly $10.4 million awarded for architectural and programmatic expansions on the Westampton Campus. These will include the augmentation and renovation of transportation, distribution and logistics classrooms and the addition of an automotive technology room, diesel technology room and outdoor covered garage area.

“As we look to the future, the funding will help us maintain an industry standard not only by allowing us to service larger machinery in our heavy equipment program, but also by providing the space to bring in state-of-the-art training equipment in all the transportation and logistics programs,” BCIT-Westampton Principal Joe Venuto said. “As such, the students will be more advanced and better prepared for post-secondary opportunities that await them.”

BCIT received another $5.9 million earmarked for an addition and renovations to the Building Trades Wing on its Medford Campus. This will support renovations and expansion of the welding technology room, as well as expansion of the HVAC and green technology program areas.

As with the first round of applications, county vocational-technical schools needed to secure 25% of project costs from their county commissioners before asking the state to contribute the remaining 75%. They also needed to demonstrate how proposed projects would meet labor market demands. 

“So many people in both our district and county worked together to provide input on our project designs and strengthen our grant applications,” BCIT Superintendent Christopher Nagy said. “It was an impressive collaboration that will have lasting benefits. We can now move forward and enter the next exciting chapter in our district history that will foster the growth of many generations to come at BCIT.”

To meet specific labor needs in its southern New Jersey region, SCVTS will use the $2.25 million it received to create a new HVAC program and expand its welding program. That expansion will include submerged arc welding — a growing employment area as New Jersey develops offshore wind projects.

Some districts were awarded grants in each round, securing additional funding to further support both student and employer demands in their respective counties.

Hunterdon County Vocational School District received $15 million in the first round and then applied for — and was awarded — $3.75 million. This second grant will fund an additional 3,550 square feet of learning space for an electrical technology program in the new 35,000-square-foot district building. 

“We were thrilled to receive significant funding last year to construct a building for new and expanded career programs that will serve hundreds more Hunterdon County students,” HCVSD Superintendent Todd Bonsall said. “The second round of funding moves us toward an even stronger plan to support our region.” 

Bonsall added, “We have heard anecdotally, and the New Jersey Department of Labor’s data backs it up, that electrical technology is a high-growth field.”

Quick hits

A look at 1st and 2nd round Career and Technical Education expansion grants:

Burlington County Institute of Technology
N/A (1st round)
$18.75M (2nd round)

Cape May County Technical Schools
$4.3 million (1st round)
$14.45 million (2nd round)

Hunterdon County Vocational School District
$15M (1st round)
$3.75M (2nd round)

Passaic County Technical-Vocational Schools
$18.5M (1st round)
$197,024 (2nd round)

Salem County Vocational Technical School District
N/A (1st round)
$18.75M (2nd round)

SOURCE: New Jersey Department of Education

HCVSD students in the electrical technology program will have the option to begin a preapprenticeship in their third year of study. Hunterdon County business owners, such as John Fusco Jr., president of the Hunterdon County Electrical Contractors Association and owner of Fusco Electric LLC in Pittstown, pledged support to build their employee pipelines by welcoming apprentices from this new program. 

Fusco emphasized in a letter sent with the grant application, “For businesses like ours to continue to thrive, schools like Hunterdon County Vocational School District must be supported.”

After receiving nearly $4.3 million in the first round of funding to establish a new environmental science and sustainability program and renovate spaces to grow existing career programs, Cape May County Technical Schools was inspired to go for more. The district put together a proposal for the second round and received all that it asked for — more than $14.45 million — to fund projects important to its school and surrounding communities. This is the single largest grant awarded in the second round.

Second-round funding will support new programs of study in cybersecurity, dental assisting, electrical, marine maintenance, medical assisting and veterinary assisting, and updates to many existing programs. 

“Our research told us that employers need skilled talent in these areas and also that Cape May County students have interest in these training programs,” said Jamie Moscony, the incoming superintendent of Cape May Tech. “We are ready and excited to move forward to support them and, subsequently, our county’s economic future.”

Renovations to existing instructional spaces will further help the district serve the unique labor needs in coastal Cape May County. Examples included renovations to a boathouse and dock for use by students training to support the boating community, as well as updates to ponds that house catfish and tilapia for study by environmental and natural sciences students.

Passaic County Technical-Vocational Schools also received significant funding in the first round, but went after a small grant in the second round of $197,024 to elevate its culinary program. A renovated space will increase not only capacity, but also the sophistication of training students receive. 

Adjustments will more closely align the high school with Passaic County Community College’s Culinary Arts curriculum to form the region’s first high school-level program that offers dual enrollment in a pre-apprenticeship path. Students will have the opportunity to earn up to eight college credits while in high school, as well as industry-valued credentials — both valuable takeaways for any CTE student.

At press time, the Legislature and Gov. Phil Murphy were preparing to give final approval to the grants.

Conversation Starter

For more inormation about Career and Technical Education expansion grants go to: nj.gov/education/cte/resources/grants or call 60-376-3500.

This series on education and industry is presented by the New Jersey Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools.