Walking through the hallways at Sussex Technical High School last week, I had the chance to watch some of our county’s most skilled students at work — preparing to become nurses, carpenters, auto mechanics and police officers.
February marks Career and Technical Education Month, which provides an opportunity to reflect on the advantages this type of education provides our students and our state. The statistics are startling: Manufacturing businesses nationally say qualified staffing shortages will affect their business production. Three million workers in a variety of fields will be hired for coming infrastructure work across the country, from the building trades to telecommunications. Demand for technicians is projected to double in the green energy sector. And there will be more than 2 million new jobs in health care over the next five years.
To meet that need, our nation and our state relies upon career-technical centers like Sussex Tech, Polytech and the New Castle County Vo-Tech high schools.
I’m proud to say Sussex Tech is firmly committed to career and technical education – and our students are, as well. Our Work-Based Learning program, which places seniors into jobs in their chosen fields, has been growing steadily, with interest continuing even during the pandemic. We have seen participation grow by 85% over the last few years, with 45% of our seniors spending time on the job last year.
At the same time, we are growing to meet the needs of a growing Sussex County. For years, there have been far more students who want a career-technical education than we have been able to accept. Legislators this year unanimously agreed to expand our enrollment to gradually accept more students over the next four years. The General Assembly also allowed our Board of Education to invest more in our programs and facilities to enhance existing offerings and add new ones.
We are thankful to our state’s leaders for their continued support of our vocational and technical education pathways. These investments will also pay off in the long run for Sussex County’s businesses, which we know are always seeking skilled, trained, certified and qualified employees with on-the-job experience.
Those are the graduates that Sussex Tech proudly produces. Sussex County and Delaware deserve nothing less.
Kevin Carson is superintendent of the Sussex County Vocational Technical School District.