Renewing efforts to prepare its students for the 21st century workforce, New Jersey has announced another $3 million for enhancing the offerings of vocational-technical schools across the state.

With the grants — the fourth round of funding in as many years — seven new career and technical education (CTE) programs will launch in the fall.

"These grant awards demonstrate our commitment to offering multiple career pathways to high school students," said Acting Commissioner of Education Dr. Lamont O. Repollet. "One of our priorities is to increase access to CTE and this grant program provides students with opportunities to obtain an apprenticeship, industry-valued credentials, or dual credit from a postsecondary institution."

Among the newly-added vo-tech programs is a first-of-its-kind in the state that aims to train students to become heavy equipment operators. Students of the Hunterdon County Vocational School District will receive hands-on training with simulators at a local high school, and classroom instruction will include blueprint reading, job estimating and preparation for the New Jersey commercial drivers' license exam.

In partnership with Raritan Valley Community College, vo-tech schools in Somerset County are adding a restaurant and entrepreneurial management program. Students will oversee the district's cafe and have opportunities for internships and job-shadowing at local restaurants.

The Morris County Vocational School District is launching a program for students interested in the field of cybersecurity and information protection.

“Students seriously interested in these types of careers will be engaged in a targeted and intense focus of study that is not available – or feasible – in their local high schools, and get a head start on college and industry certifications,” said MCVSD assistant superintendent Shari Castelli.

New grant-funded programs are also coming to Bergen County (health science), Camden County (digital media communications), Hudson County (exercise science) and Passaic County (computer science futures).

An estimated 33,000 high school students and more than 6,000 adult students attend the state's 21 county vo-tech school districts. When fully enrolled, the 23 new programs approved through grants since 2015 are expected to offer career-focused education to an additional 1,600 high school students.

"As the state has increased its focus on workforce development, these partnership grants are really aimed directly at meeting the needs of employers who are looking for skilled workers in all types of careers," said Judy Savage, executive director of the New Jersey Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools.

Savage said the new grants, which range from $175,00 to $500,000, will be stretched out over time.

"They're designed to provide maybe some new equipment that's needed, to get a new teacher on board, to get a new curriculum in place," she said.

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