A year after Hunterdon County Vocational School District received a $15 million Career and Technical Education (CTE) expansion grant, the district was awarded another $3.75 million from a second round of funding. The additional funding will support a new Electrical Technology program in response to area business owners, professional associations and county officials “expressing a strong interest in creating pathways for students to enter this high-demand field.”
“We were thrilled to receive significant funding last year to construct a building that will accommodate new and expanded career programs and serve hundreds more county students,” said HCVSD Superintendent Dr. Todd Bonsall. “The second round of grant funding moves us toward an even stronger plan to support our region – both our students and employers and our overall economic vitality. We have heard anecdotally, and the New Jersey Department of Labor’s data backs it up, that Electrical Technology is a high-growth field. Our students will have their pick of career opportunities after completing this training, and employers will have greater success building skilled teams.”
The recently awarded grant funding will support 3,550 square feet of learning space for the Electrical Technology program, which will be added on to previously approved plans for a new 35,000-square-foot district building on the North Hunterdon Campus.
The Electrical Technology shop will have individual workstations for students to practice and refine their hands-on skills, as well as a multitude of electrical trainers and tools. A theory classroom will overlook the shop from the second floor.
Groundbreaking for the district’s new building is expected in late summer/early fall of this year.
HCVSD’s new Electrical Technology program will serve an additional 25 students a year, for a total of 100 new students as the four-year program becomes fully enrolled. This is in addition to the 560 new student seats expected to be created by new and expanded programs supported by the first round of grant funding.
HCVSD students in the Electrical Technology program will have the option to begin a pre-apprenticeship in their third year of study. Classroom hours will contribute to the minimum 144 hours of related instruction required for a registered apprenticeship. That is in addition to the required 8,000 hours of paid employment.
Hunterdon County business owners pledged support to build their employee pipelines by welcoming apprentices. John Fusco Jr., president of the Hunterdon County Electrical Contractors Association and owner of Fusco Electric in Pittstown, was among those who submitted a letter of support with HCVSD’s second-round grant application.
Fusco wrote, “For businesses like ours to continue to thrive, schools like Hunterdon County Vocational School District must be supported. HCVSD has demonstrated success in educating workforce-ready employees and, more importantly, a commitment to Hunterdon County’s economic development through partnerships with businesses like Fusco Electric, LLC. As a result, we wholeheartedly support the school district’s grant application and are a committed partner for the potential pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship model.”
The four-year curriculum for the Electrical Technology program progresses in career-focused content, with the option for students to complete NCCER electrical levels 1-4, which are industry-valued assessments. Students also will have the option to pursue a 6-year pathway toward an Applied Associate in Science degree in Electrical Engineering, Applied Science or Business or pursue an 8-year pathway toward a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering or Business Management.
HCVSD extended its partnership with Raritan Valley Community College at the onset of the first round of grant applications. A new agreement ensures the college can support the increased number of HCVSD students expected to pursue dual enrollment, as well as the increased number who will attend after high school, based on the school district’s expansion goals.
Among the “most critical partners” the district secured before pursuing both rounds of grants were the Hunterdon County Commissioners. To pursue the CTE expansion grants, HCVSD first needed to secure a local funding match of 25 percent. According to the district, the commissioners “came through with the funding for both rounds.”
“A strong partnership between the Hunterdon County Vocational School District and the County Board of Commissioners is instrumental to the generational growth of tomorrow’s industry leaders here in Hunterdon County,” said Hunterdon County Commissioner Zachary T. Rich. “I am beyond proud to serve as Commissioner liaison to HCVSD, working with Dr. Bonsall to ensure pivotal grants are obtained to continue the gold standard in technical training that makes HCVSD students nationally recognized in their respective fields, year after year.”
Rich continued, “The construction of the expansion at the North Hunterdon Campus is a major milestone for education in Hunterdon County. As we, together, continue to offer students the best tools and resources to succeed after graduation.”
The CTE expansion grants received by HCVSD stem from the Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act, which was passed by New Jersey voters in 2018. This Bond Act set aside $275 million for county vocational-technical school districts to create new student seats in career-focused programs that meet county needs and align with New Jersey’s labor market demands or economic development goals.
HCVSD’s first round of grant funding supports the forthcoming construction of the new district building on the grounds of North Hunterdon High School – another important partner in this expansion initiative. North Hunterdon will help HCVSD students meet core curriculum requirements to earn their high school diplomas.
The full-time career programs that will be offered in HCVSD’s new building – with an anticipated start in Fall 2024 – are HVAC/Plumbing Technology; Culinary Arts and Hospitality; Advanced Manufacturing & Aeronautical Sciences; Welding Technology; and Diesel Technology – in addition to the newly added Electrical Technology program. This new building on the North Hunterdon Campus will also have an expanded state-of-the-art space for HCVSD’s Culinary program, which will relocate from the district’s Bartles Campus.
HCVSD will continue to provide updates about its grant-funded expansion on the district website, hcvsd.org.
This article originally appeared June 16 on NJ.com.