This fall, 26 freshmen became the first students enrolled in Gloucester County Institute of Technology’s Academy of Advanced Manufacturing and Applied Science. The high school program is housed in a brand-new, 25,760-square-foot building. This dedicated space, now occupied by an enthusiastic student cohort, reflects significant progress toward ensuring New Jersey’s workforce can not only sustain, but help grow the state’s manufacturing industry.
Much of that progress was driven by industry professionals and state businesses in need of well-trained employees, especially as manufacturing roles evolve to become increasingly technical. The New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program reports more than 35,000 current openings for manufacturing positions in the state.
Former NJMEP CEO John Kennedy has long been an advocate for focused career and technical education programs to prepare a new generation for modern manufacturing roles.
“CTE schools are not only the hidden gems of New Jersey education, but, in many ways, the lynchpin for career pathways,” Kennedy said. “Their role in educating young people in highly technical and highly skilled sectors is an absolute critical function.”
The New Jersey Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools awarded Kennedy the 2023 Career and Technical Education Leadership Award for the meaningful results he achieved through his advocacy.
Industry connections strengthen training programs
Industry demand has led to a resurgence of manufacturing career and technical education programs. Employers have stepped up to advise educators on program development and to help keep curriculum and training equipment relevant. They also welcome students into the workplace for real-world learning and networking.
Schools appreciate the support of local, national and international manufacturing companies, such as Thorlabs Inc., Festo Didactic, Intel and many others. And, they always welcome additional support to educate, train and inspire their students.
State investment helps schools meet workforce training needs
The Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act included $275 million in state bond funding to help county vocational-technical schools expand to meet both students’ and the state’s workforce needs. When those grants became available, the schools consulted with area employers and workforce development boards to ensure proposed projects have an impact locally.
The expansion of South Jersey’s manufacturing industry influenced GCIT’s pursuit of its new Academy of Advanced Manufacturing and Applied Science. That program’s debut marks the first completed project with Bond Act funding, with many others underway throughout the state to accommodate new, in-demand career programs.
Madison Jones is part of that inaugural class of GCIT students learning in the new Academy of Advanced Manufacturing and Applied Science. Just a few weeks into school, she was already practicing on an Amatrol AC/DC Electrical Learning System. The district partnered with Amatrol for a comprehensive curriculum that moves students through both online and in-person training covering mechanical systems, robotics, 3D modeling, data analytics, supply chain concepts and much more.
The program’s new building was designed to accommodate multiple labs with Amatrol systems, welding equipment, 3D printers and other tools and technologies for students to engage in hands-on learning and gain confidence in applying their newly acquired skills. From undertaking electrical wiring to troubleshooting hydraulics and learning to operate and fix a sorting machine that requires knowledge in mechatronics (the combination of mechanical and electrical knowledge), the students’ experiences give them a broad and relevant foundation for success in advanced manufacturing.
Recruitment requires awareness of industry opportunities
Jones said the scope of the program is what drew her to it.
Spread the word
To further encourage young people to remain curious about advanced manufacturing career programs and subsequent career pathways, the NJCCVTS has produced this video: youtube.com/watch?v=R6uIkpe3vOg.
Like and share the video to spread the word that fulfilling futures await those who are trained to take on modern advanced manufacturing roles. And New Jersey students can start focusing on such a future by attending a county vocational-technical school career program. Learn more at careertechnj.org/.
“What we are learning here will prepare us for our futures, because this field includes all the advancements in manufacturing to change how things are made,” she said. “I want to be a part of something like this that is exciting and with so many career opportunities.”
Many county vocational-technical schools recruit students into advanced manufacturing programs by making that connection between classroom learning and career success. That becomes an even stronger selling point when schools have alumni stories to back it up.
Alfonso Carandang, a 2018 graduate of the EDAM program, said the early start he got in the field helped him get a jump-start on a rewarding career path. While completing the EDAM program, Carandang accumulated enough college credits to also earn an associate degree from CCM. He applied those two years’ worth of credits to the New Jersey Institute of Technology, where he received a bachelor’s degree. While in his senior year, he felt confident in the skillset he had acquired to begin working in a hospital setting as a clinical engineer. That paved the way for him to move into his current role as a process engineer in the medical device industry.
“I help develop the manufacturing and inspection processes for new products coming into the market,” Carandang said of his current role. “What I enjoy most is the lack of ceiling for growing my technical and soft skills.”
Carandang added that he also feels fulfilled by his career.
“I’m happy the products I’m helping develop can really change someone’s life.”
His advice to young people exploring programs in advanced manufacturing is to “be curious and never stop learning.” He said this is especially important today, with technology driving so much innovation and different areas of specialty within manufacturing.