The State Board of Education dedicated its February meeting to an examination of career and technical education in New Jersey.

Governor’s Proclamation –The governor declared February 2019 as Career and Technical Education (CTE) month in New Jersey.  In the proclamation, the governor noted that there are over 179,000 secondary and post-secondary students who attend the state’s CTE schools.

Staff of the New Jersey Department of Education addressed the State Board concerning the need to increase equity and access to career and technical education for students.  The NJDOE also wants to strengthen partnership and increase collaboration with stakeholders. The NJDOE reviewed the requirements of the federal Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, also known as Perkins V.

In part, Perkins V maintains a commitment to driving improvement through programs of study and retains the state governance structure of current law, as well as formulas for local funding flowing to public or nonprofit educational institutions. It updates the federal-to-state formula to ensure states receive no less than their fiscal year 2018 funding levels as long as funding is not cut overall.

Staff also stressed the need for greater availability of CTE programs to meet the growing demand. One of the issues facing CTE is the need to provide enough qualified instructors in the classroom. The average age of a CTE teacher is 59. NJDOE will present updated draft regulations for consideration by the State Board to address shortages of teachers at its next meeting.

To meet the growing facilities needs of CTE, voters recently approved the “Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act” which will provide grants to county vocational school districts and county colleges to construct and equip buildings to increase capacity in career and technical education programs. The act, in part, will provide $350 million to support county vocational school district projects and school security projects and $50 million to support county college projects.

The NJDOE highlighted its collaboration with the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development.  Through this partnership, the state hopes to expand the number of apprenticeships offered in nontraditional sectors such as energy, utilities and infrastructure; financial services/insurance; information technology/cyber security; health care; retail, hospitality and tourism; transportation, logistics and distribution; and renewable energy. NJDOE staff stressed the need to make sure that its efforts are aligned with industry.

The State Board also highlighted a variety of CTE programs around the state. These included:

  • Panther Academy—A STEM-focused academy in the Paterson school district is a partnership between IBM, Paterson and the Passaic County Community College. This is a six-year program beginning in high schools that culminates in an associate’s degree. There are also similar programs in the New Brunswick and Burlington City School Districts.
  • STEM Dual Enrollment and Early College High School –This program, a partnership between Morris Hills Regional, Morris County Vo-Tech, Roxbury and Mountain Lakes school districts and the County College of Morris provides for a range of different experiences including engineering design and manufacturing; cybersecurity and information protection; horticulture and landscaping design; culinary arts and hospitality; athletic training and physical therapy, and biotechnology.  These programs provide for dual-enrollment in high school and the community college.
  • Building Capacity for Career Pathways Programs—The Elizabeth school district has made a commitment to growing CTE in comprehensive high schools. The district has programs in allied health and emergency medicine technology. The building capacity grant focuses on preparing students for careers in high-labor market demand occupations that provide family-sustaining wages. The program involves business and industry partners and postsecondary institutions in its development. Additionally, Elizabeth has an articulation agreement with Rutgers University and a partnership with the local hospital which provides the students with clinical experiences.
  • Advanced Manufacturing and Robotics Monmouth County Vo-Tech has a shared time program where students spend part of their time taking classes on the campus of an advanced manufacturing company. The program provides structured learning experiences for students in which they will be able to earn industry certifications.  The structure of the program provides a smooth transition into the workplace.