By Michael Crane
While vocational schools provide many benefits for many communities, in-house Career and Technical Education (CTE) has been reborn and grown in Wildwood to accommodate students who need career paths other than traditional academic frameworks. The ever-growing needs of our community for CTE are at the forefront of our school’s mission, to meet the needs of the entire population within the gates of our own school.
As the morning announcements start at 7:40 a.m. in this small island town, students are still feeling a little hazy and waking up discussing their game last night or the dance scheduled for next week. Wildwood High School opened in 1916. Many generations of families have been raised here and have remained here. They worked here and stayed in Wildwood when they retired. Pride and dedication have been passed down from generation to generation.
Nearly 70% of Wildwood High School’s 243 students are economically disadvantaged. Sixty-two percent are students of color with 52% identifying as Hispanic or Latinx. These same students typically have considerable language and economic barriers and educational gaps. They often don’t have the opportunities available to students in larger communities.
Wildwood is a tourist community whose population grows exponentially each summer. Employment opportunities are also increasing exponentially. The city employs many police officers, construction workers, restaurant workers, graphic designers and educational staff. In response to jobs created by tourism, Wildwood High School is continually adding and shaping its career-focused electives and courses to meet the needs of the community.
In light of Wildwood’s challenges and opportunities, the school community worked together to answer this question: “How can we better provide our student population with the experience and diverse career paths they need within our school walls? »
The answer lies in the Wildwood High School programs that have evolved to offer CTE training. These programs allow students to emerge from Wildwood High School ready to enter multiple areas of the workforce with entry-level training and post-secondary technical preparation.
Wildwood High School currently offers a three-year Construction Technology Academy, which provides graduate students with the skills needed to enter the workforce at the apprenticeship level. Students are also prepared for post-secondary educational paths in construction fields. Students complete finishing processes for installation of flooring, cabinetry and trim, electrical, HVAC, and plumbing. Students spend the second half of their final year as an intern in one or more areas of construction, gaining valuable hands-on experience. In this program, students complete the NOCTI course building certification processes.
Wildwood High School also offers a four-year CTE program, complemented by an articulation agreement with Atlantic Cape Community College that provides students with five college credits upon completion of the program. The program has four levels: Introduction to Kitchen, Kitchen 1, Kitchen 2, and Kitchen 3. Upon completion of the program, students can also obtain certification in ServSafe and TIPS (training in intervention procedures). They gain valuable experience working at the student-run restaurant, The Warrior Cafe. They are trained for career positions in “front of house” and “behind the house” restaurants.
The Criminal Justice Academy provides students with practical knowledge in the areas of criminal justice, terrorism, history as it applies to the fields of law enforcement, forensics and criminal investigation . These degree programs provide the training and skills needed to advance to law enforcement positions.
Graphic design courses explore the fundamentals of research, idea development, composition, typography, and information organization. Students learn to communicate skillfully using visual language, problem solve, create visually pleasing designs, develop meaningful concepts, and create concept-driven design strategies and solutions. Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop are taught so that students can master layout and image creation, manipulation/retouching of photographs, and skillful use of typography, all of which are relevant in the graphic design industry of today.
Career options are explored in marketing, advertising, and graphic design. Students work as a team in a studio to promote the services and talent of the studio’s designers. They meet weekly to discuss workflow, job responsibilities, planning and work/project status. Students are connected with members of the community by working closely with internal and external clientele.
The Education Academy at Wildwood High School offers dual credit programs that allow students to earn college credit while learning the basics of a career in education. The Cadet Teacher Program is one adopted by Wildwood to assist the Center in recruiting, retaining and advancing educators.
Michael Crane is a carpentry teacher at Wildwood High School. He represents Cape May County on the NJEA Vocational, Vocational and Technical Training Committee.