By Michael Crane
While vocational schools offer a great number of advantages for many communities, in-house career and technical education (CTE) has been reborn and developed in Wildwood to accommodate those students who need career pathways other than traditional college settings. The ever-increasing needs of our community in CTE are at the forefront of our school’s mission, to serve the entire population’s needs within the doors of our own school.
As the morning announcements begin at 7:40 a.m. in this small island town, students are still feeling a little foggy and waking up as they chat about their game last night or the dance scheduled for next week. Wildwood High School first opened its doors in 1916. Many generations of families have been raised here and remained here. They worked here and stayed in Wildwood when they retired—pride and dedication have been passed from generation to generation.
Nearly 70% of the 243 students at Wildwood High School are economically disadvantaged. Sixty-two percent are students of color with 52% identifying at Hispanic or Latinx. These same students typically have considerable language and economic barriers and educational gaps. They often lack the opportunities afforded to students in larger communities.
Wildwood is a tourist community whose population increases exponentially each summer. The job opportunities increase exponentially as well. The town employs many police officers, construction workers, restaurant workers, graphic designers and educational staff. In response to the jobs created by tourism, Wildwood High School continually adds to and shapes its electives and career-focused courses to meet community needs.
In light of Wildwood’s challenges and opportunities, the school community collaborated to answer this question: “How can we further provide our student population with the experience and diverse career pathways they need within our school walls?”
The answer is programs at Wildwood High School that have evolved to provide CTE training. These programs enable students to walk out of Wildwood High School ready to enter multiple areas of the workforce with entry-level training and post-secondary technical preparedness.
Wildwood High School is currently offering a three-year Construction Technology Academy, which provides graduating students with the skills to enter the workforce at an apprenticeship level. Students are also prepared for post-secondary educational pathways within the construction fields. Students complete finishing processes for flooring, cabinet and trim installation, electrical, HVAC, and plumbing. Students spend the second half of their senior year as an intern in one or more of the construction fields gaining valuable hands-on experience. In this program students complete NOCTI pathway-construction certification processes.
Wildwood High School also offers a four-year CTE program, complete with an articulation agreement with Atlantic Cape Community College that offers students five college credits upon completion of the program. The program consists of four levels: Introduction to Culinary, Culinary 1, Culinary 2, and Culinary 3. Upon completion of the program, students can also earn certification in ServSafe and TIPS (training for intervention procedures). They gain valuable experience in working at the student-run restaurant, The Warrior Cafe. They are trained for both “front of the house” and “back of the house” restaurant career positions.
The Criminal Justice Academy offers students working knowledge in the areas of criminal justice, terrorism, history as it applies to the law enforcement fields, forensics, and criminal investigations. These programs of study provide the training and skills needed to enter law enforcement positions.
Graphic design classes explore the fundamentals of research, idea development, composition, typography and the organization of information. Students learn to skillfully communicate using visual language, solve problems, create visually pleasing designs, develop meaningful concepts, and create strategies and concept-driven design solutions. Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop are taught so students can achieve mastery of image layout and creation, manipulation/retouching of photographs, and a skilled use of typography, all of which are relevant in today’s graphic design industry.
Career options are explored in the fields of marketing, advertising, and graphic design. Students work as a team in a studio setting to promote the services and talent of the studio designers. They meet weekly to discuss work flow, job responsibilities, scheduling and job/project status. The 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 allowing students to achieve college credit at the same time they are learning the fundamentals of a career in education. The Teacher Cadet curriculum is one adopted by Wildwood to assist with the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement.
Michael Crane is a carpentry teacher at Wildwood High School. He represents Cape May County on the NJEA Vocational, Career and Technical Education Committee.