Adapting to fast changes in the job market, Middlesex County Vocational-Technical Schools have expanded and adapted their course offerings to improve the skills of their students as they train for the working world.
According to a press release from the school district, the current school year brought a number of upgrades to the district's Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs.
The goal of the upgrade, which affected programs like cosmetology, performing arts and digital arts, was to align the research-based curriculum in each program with industry standards and offer students the opportunity for accreditation, according to the district.
“We are expanding our CTE program linkages with colleges, universities, apprenticeship, industry and regional employers," said district superintendent Brian J. Loughlin, in a prepared statement. "Additionally, we are developing CTE programs for new and emerging career areas.”
The district's cosmetology labs have been made over to resemble salons, a greener HVAC and construction trade program teaches geothermal and sustainable construction practices, and multi-media art and design programs include such focuses as video game design and industrial arts.
"We renovated and upgraded our cosmetology program in East Brunswick," said Todd Bonsall, director of career and technical education for the district. "It has much more of an upscale salon feel to it."
The East Brunswick campus now boasts two salon-style labs, complete with a front desk. One can accommodate up to 25 students. The other is used for adult night classes in cosmetology.
Bonsall said the program has proved to be very popular with students.
"There's always a waiting list for this program," he said.
According to the district, the school of art and design incorporates the requirements for a slew of career tracks in its offerings.
"Its moving away from the...typical printing press to more of an industrial design type program," said Todd Bonsall, Director of Career and Technical Education for the District. "We're working with NJIT to align it very well with their industrial design programs."
Additionally, students in the school can earn college credits through the program.
The school of construction technology's "green" focus has two tracks, Bonsall said. One is toward "green" construction, while the other focuses on "green energy."
The goal of the upgrade is to teach "environmentally responsible practices" through the study of geothermal heating, solar energy and energy-efficient construction, according to the district. The program is extremely hands-on, with students building heating and cooling equipment in the shop and working with different types of building materials, said instructor George Gent.
"Even if the kids choose to walk away from this experience, the knowledge and experience given in this shop will be with them for the rest of their lives," he said.
In the district's performing arts school, students both take to the stage and stand behind the camera to learn different aspects of the performing arts.
In a digital film making class, instructor Elisha Miranda said that in addition to shooting footage, students study film fundamentals and research film genres to understand their underlying themes.
Currently, the class is working on the horror genre, and how slasher flicks are often reflections of the day's fears and events.
Performing arts instructor Maria Aladren said that graduates of the performing arts program have gone on to five of the top 10 acting programs in the country, including Mason Gross and New York University, while other students intern in New York "all the time."
The performing arts major includes studies in acting, design and production, direction and stage management, play writing and dramaturgy, she said.
"The state mantra now is when students graduate from here, it's college and career readiness," Bonsall said. "So when they leave here, they can either go right to college or right to a career into an entry-level job, and they are well prepared to go into that field."
For more information on Middlesex County Vocational-Technical Schools, visit www.mcvts.net.