Employers across the state were recognized recently by New Jersey’s county vocational-technical schools for making valuable contributions to career and technical education. Each school district chose its Business Partner of the Year, an annual award that highlights the time, talents and other resources shared by a company to benefit students. This year’s honorees represent a range of industries, reflective of the depth and breadth of career-focused programs offered in New Jersey’s vocational-technical high schools.
Morris County Vocational School District’s honoree, Saint Clare’s Health, has extended learning beyond the classroom by pairing numerous departments throughout the health system with students from multiple career programs. Its cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation programs, as well as its physical and occupational therapy departments, hosted exercise science students for clinical rotations; a total of eight departments welcomed Academy for Health Care Sciences juniors for their clinical rotations. In addition, Saint Clare’s provided an internship for a student in the Academy for Computer and Information Sciences, and currently hosts a health care sciences intern.
Since the onset of this relationship between MCVSD and Saint Clare’s, the hospital system has grown its involvement with district students, recognizing the importance of bridging the gap between school and work.
“This partnership provides students a chance to apply what they have learned in the classroom in the real working world, thus beginning their career journey in a meaningful and impactful way,” said Jan Bednar, chief nursing officer for Saint Clare’s. “It is the first step for many of them to forge new professional relationships and become part of the community. We at Saint Clare’s Health live by our core values of serving and caring for our community members, and this partnership is one such commitment.”
Many business partners said the relationships forged with their county vocational-technical school benefit both parties. Daniel Redgrave, general manager at Michael J. Wright Construction, praised his company’s connection to Ocean County Vocational Technical School’s construction technology program, noting there are rewards beyond receiving the 2022 Business Partner of the Year title.
“Four years ago, we knew it was time to strategically partner with local youth in some way,” said Redgrave. “As with most successful businesses, at some point, an aging workforce becomes a real challenge. We had to figure out how to transition 35 years of knowledge from one generation to the next using a mentor program. However, that needed local youth who were willing, enthusiastic and well-educated in basic construction and a learning institution that wanted to place students in long-term, rewarding careers. A partnership with MJW and OCVTS was born.”
Students in the construction technology program spend one day each week in class, learning the theory behind all facets of the construction process, as well as the vernacular. They then spend four days experiencing hands-on learning at businesses like Michael J. Wright Construction that willingly assist with their training.
“Students who join the crew are mentored by a foreman and journeyman on the job, which makes for a valuable work-based learning environment that students are excited to talk about in class,” said Karen Homiek, OCVTS superintendent. “Having the opportunity to apply what they have learned in the classroom is essential to their career preparation and future success.”
Since OCVTS and Michael J. Wright Construction began collaborating in 2017, the company has hired multiple students who were initially part of the work-based learning program.
Norwalt, the Business Partner of the Year selected by Sussex County Technical School, has also realized that, by investing resources in the district’s mechatronics & robotics program, it is simultaneously investing in its workforce. The custom machine assembly firm is in its second year of working with the district.
“Programs like those at Sussex County Technical School are important for the future of all kinds of American manufacturing companies,” said Plant Manager Matt Seitel. “We offer skills training, of course, but we also introduce young people to careers they might not have otherwise considered. We encourage students, even from other programs within the technical school, to come to our plant and actually try the different kinds of work associated with manufacturing.”
Seitel also donates his time as an advisory board member for the mechatronics & robotics program. In this role, he has recruited colleagues to join him in guest speaker and mentorship roles, and he has offered curriculum feedback and introduced a long-term project for students in the coming year. They will design, build and test their own automation machinery with his oversight.
“Learning opportunities like this — a project designed by someone in industry — adds even more value to the county vocational-technical school experience,” said Michael Dicken, New Jersey Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools president and superintendent of Gloucester County Institute of Technology. “The relationships we have with so many employers, who so graciously work with our schools, help ensure we deliver relevant content and training that hones sought-after skills so we best prepare students to enter the workforce and make meaningful contributions.”
This series on education and industry is presented by the New Jersey Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools.