New Jersey School Boards Association workshop panel
Workforce Development

Vo-Tech School Leaders Tout Benefits of Work-based Learning

Student emphasized how work-based learning has helped prepare them for future career success during a recent presentation by county vocational-technical school leaders at New Jersey School Boards Association’s (NJSBA) Workshop 2023 in Atlantic City.

“I think having prior knowledge and being able to go into college with an idea of who you want to be and where you want to go in life is helpful. Also, the world has become so competitive that you want to be the best person you can,” said Srija Boddu, a student at Morris County School of Technology’s Academy for Health Care Sciences.

Boddu wants to continue on to college and then medical school on her path toward becoming a psychiatrist. She is currently exploring the medical field while building her resume by participating in clinical rotations at St. Clare’s Denville Hospital. This opportunity is weaved into her high school curriculum, giving Boddu and her peers head starts on their ambitious college and career journeys.

Chase Brayerton, a recent graduate of the construction technology program at Salem County Vocational Technical School District, said the opportunity to participate in work-based learning his senior year kept him engaged and focused while he completed his high school degree. “My friends and I just want to work,” he said, noting how he could focus on school for half a day and then spend the rest of the day at a job site, where he started making money and learning new skills.

Brayerton’s work-based learning placement with J&S Fencing led to full-time employment. Today, he serves as foreman over the company’s landscaping division, managing a small team and multiple corporate and residential projects.

“Because of what I was offered at Salem County Vocational, I knew I had a job after high school,” Brayerton said. He also knew he had acquired skills important for his success. “I learned a lot of professionalism; it helped me a lot,” he added.

“Srija and Chase have different career ambitions, yet both took advantage of work-based learning opportunities to apply what they learned in the classroom in an actual workplace setting,” said Jackie Burke, executive director of the New Jersey Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools (NJCCVTS).

“What the students get out of these experiences in terms of professional and technical skill development, career exploration and networking is invaluable in terms of putting them on a path toward career fulfillment and success.”

Burke said presenting on work-based learning at NJSBA’s Workshop raises awareness among attendees that these opportunities exist at county vocational-technical schools. She said the presentation also detailed how the students, employers and school personnel all work together in these work-based learning programs that have proven beneficial for all participants.

Jack Proseda, owner of J&S Fencing, said he jumped at the opportunity to partner with Salem County Vocational to add Brayerton to his team. “He definitely adds value to the company a lot,” said Proseda of his young employee. Now, the business owner looks to maintain the relationship with the county vocational-technical school to introduce additional students to work-based learning with J&S Fencing. “We could continue to grow with the different qualities of the next generation. While it’s beneficial to the students, it is also beneficial to our company…they can develop as our company develops.”

“Our county vocational-technical schools are a model for how to effectively integrate work-based learning into high school curricula, with about 12,000 students participating annually across the 21 districts,” said Burke. “We are proud to showcase the success of these programs by spotlighting the benefits, largely through the successes of students who have participated.”

Using videos of Boddu, Brayerton and students from Bergen County Technical School District and Cape May County Technical Schools in their work-based learning environments, Burke led the NJSBA presentation. In-person panelists shared additional insights from their respective districts. They included Richard Panicucci, assistant superintendent of Bergen County Technical School District; Jamie Moscony, superintendent of Cape May County Technical Schools; Scott Moffitt, superintendent of Morris County Vocational School District; and Jack Swain, superintendent of Salem County Vocational Technical School District.

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