Work began this week that will help to expand the Camden County Technical Schools, part of wider efforts to train a 21st century workforce in the region.
“The mission of our technical schools is vital to workforce development in Camden County, so we can have a strong foundation of employees in a variety of fields,” Camden County Commissioner Deputy Director Ed McDonnell said during an Oct. 6 groundbreaking in Pennsauken to celebrate the $24 million investment across that campus and CCTS’s Gloucester Township location that was attended by the county Board of Commissioners along with federal, state and local partners.
The funding will be applied to both campuses.
In Pennsauken, the $14 million effort will see the addition of 20,990 square feet to a building in support of CCTS’s culinary program. It will include culinary career labs on two floors in addition to two theory/instructional classrooms and an instruction support/service simulation kitchen for front-of-house instruction practices. An elevator will also be added to connect the ground floor and the mezzanine level of the building.
That’ll open up 80 new seats for Culinary Arts students over four years, according to CCTS, and allow for 20 more enrollees in other career and technical programs. Karen DiGiacobbe, assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction, assessment and grants for CCTS, said the expansion is critical to meet local demand.
“[I]n reviewing our admissions data, we have found on average more than 40% of incoming students request culinary arts as one of their top three career choices on their application,” she said. “In fact, culinary arts is the highest career program area of interest for freshman applicants.”
As part of the second round of grant funding designated for county colleges and vocational school districts, Gov. Phil Murphy, acting Commissioner of Education Angelica Allen-McMillan and Secretary of Higher Education Brian Bridges recommended a new slate of projects to the Legislature in May. Read more here.
At the Gloucester Township Campus, the $10 million project will add 19,206 square feet to a building that will house a new career path program centered on manufacturing engineering technology (MET) and an associated MET Career Lab, a MET Design Theory Lab, three career and technical education (CTE) related theory/instructional rooms, a MET Simulation Lab and a MET Physical Science Lab, in addition to a large group instruction area and related support spaces.
The work will allow for an increase of about 80 MET students over the next four years. CCTS said it’ll also help with other career programming by reducing bottlenecks and allowing for 40 more students to enroll in those CTE programs.
Overall, the work in Pennsauken will allow for accommodations to increase enrollment by 14% so that the school can host 100 more students by the end of the fourth school year following the project’s completion. In Gloucester Township, the efforts will enable the school to enroll 120 more students and thusly increase participation in CTE programs by 10%.
“CCTS recently awarded the construction bids for both projects and are on track to open each facility for students for the 2024-2025 school year,” said CCTS Manager of District Operations Tony DePrince. “Our expansion plans are cutting edge and quite impressive.”
Both projects are being funding through 2021 legislation signed by Gov. Phil Murphy in 2021 to award $220 million in grants to 15 New Jersey vocational-technical school districts. To be eligible for the funding, which was approved by voters in 2018 under the Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act, districts must secure a 25% match from their county.
CCTS said the Camden County Board of Commissioners “happily supported” that effort.
“Our county vocational-technical school programs are in high demand by New Jersey students and their families who realize the value in getting a head start on both workplace and college readiness,” said Jackie Burke, executive director of the New Jersey Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools. “The Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act construction projects, like the ones happening at Camden County Technical Schools, will not only add space to better meet student demand, but will create and update classrooms with the latest tools and technologies used by professionals across all industries.
“The investment made by both the state and Camden County’s commissioners will prepare a new generation of skilled workers to find personal career success while aiding their local and state economies,” Burke said.