Miguel Rosario and Eric Krise don’t appear to have much in common.
Rosario owns an auto repair shop in Phillipsburg in northwestern New Jersey. Krise is an electrician with his own company based in Salem County, at the other end of the state.
But the men share a distinction. They were both honored last month as business partners of the year by the county vocational-technical technical schools they attended.
While they graduated years ago, the business owners maintain an ongoing relationship with their high schools, serving as advisory board members as well as offering work-based learning opportunities for students.
“All of our county vocational-technical schools value their business partners, which is why we recognize them every year,” said Judy Savage, the executive director of the New Jersey Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools. “Business partners play a critical role in developing career programs and keeping them aligned with current and future industry needs.”
Business partners also serve as guest speakers, donate equipment and supplies, hire graduates and assist in job placements, offer internships and apprenticeships, provide site visits and student tours of facilities, participate in technical skill assessments and help train career and technical education teachers in new technologies.
As graduates of vocational-technical schools, Rosario and Krise both have a unique understanding of the importance of school business partners, but they both stress that any business in New Jersey can and should get involved with its county vocational-technical schools.
“The most important thing I’ve done since starting my business is working with my county vocational-technical school,” said Krise, who graduated from Salem County Career & Technical High School Woodstown in 1998. “These students are the future of our trade. Every year, it gets harder and harder to find qualified workers. We’re already in a shortage. I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like in 10 years.”
Krise said he decided to get involved in his alma mater because he wanted to improve the quality of instruction for students.
“Having attended the school, I knew the electrical curriculum was good, but it was still only the basics,” Krise said. “After working in the field, I realized that there were other things that the students should know before they got out of high school, so I worked with the school to make sure that happened.”
Krise started his career as an electrician straight out of high school, working as an apprentice with a contractor. By 2009, he started his own business. Today, his company, Eric M. Krise Electrical Contractors LLC in Williamstown, has more than 100 employees. Along with his wife, Stephanie Krise, Krise also operates SJ Electrical Training & Apprenticeship LLC, an electrical training and apprenticeship school in Elmer.
Krise takes on at least two students every year while they are still in high school to work on his job sites, giving them valuable hands-on, real-world work experience.
“Without business partners like Eric who dedicate their time and energy to supporting our students, valuable educational programs offered in high school and postsecondary education would not be made possible,” said John Swain, superintendent of the Salem County Vocational-Technical School District.
Like Krise, Rosario got involved with Warren County Technical School because he saw an opportunity to improve the school curriculum and give students hands-on experience.
While attending Warren Tech, Rosario specialized in automotive technology and got work experience his senior year with a local shop. After graduating in 2009, Rosario landed a job at a local repair shop and worked his way up, eventually managing the shop. By 2013, he started his own shop, Pburg Auto Repair in Phillipsburg.
“I would not be where I am today without the instructors at Warren Tech,” Rosario said. “They were a big part of my success.”
Rosario said he first got involved with his alma mater after receiving a call from one of his former instructors asking if he would provide an opportunity for a student to get work experience. Rosario said he jumped at the chance, because he saw it as a way to give back to the school that launched his successful career. Every year, he tries to bring on one student from the school.
“I’m trying to do my part to help out,” Rosairo said. “I always wanted to give the kids a helping hand because not a lot of shops will hire students from right out of high school or that are still in high school.”