Pennsauken School District Cuts Ribbon On New Trade Programs

By Frank Sinatra, AAP Editor

Last month, the Pennsauken School District officially cut the ribbon on the high school’s new trade programs. Beginning this year, Pennsauken High School offers career technical education (CTE) programs in carpentry, cosmetology, automotive technology, and culinary arts.

“We’re excited to launch these new programs for our students,” says Tarah Gillespie, district curriculum supervisor for grades sixth through 12. “The purpose of these programs is to get our students certifications and get them on track to getting jobs post high school.”

Over the summer, the high school underwent extensive renovations to upgrade the building’s facilities to accommodate the new CTE programs. But according to Gillespie, the development of these classes started months earlier.

“The work started way before the summer, writing curriculum for 16 courses, getting the curriculum and programs approved by the state, and ordering and organizing the materials and supplies that the students will need. It was a very large task and a very involved process.”

All that hard work has paid off, as there’s been an overwhelming interest from students to enroll in these classes.

“For cosmetology, there were 123 applicants for 23 chairs. In carpentry, there are 60 students enrolled,” explains Nick Perry, president, Pennsauken Board of Education. “These are the types of programs that many students are dying to get into.”

In addition, three out of the four teachers involved in these programs, Jason Wilson, John Warwick, and Jibril Smitherman, all graduated from Pennsauken High School and have come back to prepare these students for career and technical readiness.

“Pennsauken has a strong sense of community; to have these PHS graduates return to their old high school and prepare the next generation of students for career and technical readiness speaks volumes,” says Dr. Ronnie Tarchichi, superintendent of schools for the Pennsauken School District. “Our vocational programs will rival any programs on any campus. It’s an important part of making Pennsauken a comprehensive school district that offers dual credit courses, advanced placement courses, college preparatory courses, and vocational courses.”

There is a real need for vocational workers. The New Jersey Business and Industry Association estimates that 80 percent of manufacturers in the nation have a significant shortage of qualified applicants for skilled production positions.

“As part of the process for developing Pennsauken’s trade programs, we met with many of the unions, including the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, and the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers Union,” says Perry. “In speaking with any of these people, their commonality was that they do not have enough students in these types of vocational programs. So it was an easy fix for us.”

The District also plans to add more CTE programs within the next two years.

“Our long term goals are to add additional programs in 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 school years. First, we’re going to add electrical trades and welding. Then the year after that, we’ll add plumbing,” explains Gillespie. “We also are looking to build community partnerships, so that our students can work with people in these industries. We want to give each and every student the tools they need to have success after graduation, whether it’s through post-secondary education or a vocational career.”

Translate »