EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - The East Brunswick Campus of the Middlesex County Vocational and Technical Schools is working with the U.S. Department of Education on a photo and video project to promote career and technical education.

A film crew and still photographer toured the campus and set up in the library on Sept. 20, 2017 to interview students, faculty members and the principal. The video – expected to run about three minutes – is scheduled to be finished later this year.

“The purpose of the project is to show potential students and their parents the exciting opportunities available today in career and technical education,” said Sean Riordan of Luminary Labs in Manhattan, a strategy consulting firm working with the Department of Education.

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“We want any student in the country to look at this and think, ‘I want to do that,’” Riordan said.

He said the MCVTS East Brunswick Campus made a great setting for the project because of the school’s diversity of career majors.

“Many people don’t know how many options there are in career and technical education,” said Julia Lindpaintner of Luminary Labs.

Emily DeBonis, a senior agricultural science major from Milltown, told the film interviewer that she entered MCVTS as a theater major in the School of the Arts on the East Brunswick Campus, but now wants to be a veterinarian working with exotic animals.

“I didn’t know I would have a passion for agri-science until I was cycling through all the majors,” she said.

Regardless of their declared majors, MCVTS freshmen rotate through a choice of six different career majors for seven or eight days each. Many change their mind about their majors after being exposed to different careers.

“I actually had no idea what pre-engineering was when I came here,” said sophomore William Farmer of Old Bridge, adding that when he saw all the equipment in the pre-engineering and advanced manufacturing shop – such as a 3-D printer – he became excited.

“I thought, that looks cool,” he said. “I’m really glad I made that decision.”

Pre-engineering instructor Stephen Mercadante said the career major prepares students for “multiple pathways” upon graduation, including entering the workforce, continuing with post-secondary technical education or attending college.

“These kids learn the skills to be both makers and improvers,” he said, citing the 30 work stations in his shop. “What’s exciting for me is watching the lightbulbs go on, all these little victories that go on.”

Ariel Loza, a senior from Perth Amboy in the multimedia art and design program, said she initially wanted to be a fashion designer, but became interested in anatomy and now is aimed at a career in forensic art.

“I was all about the clothes,” she said. “My career goal has changed so much.”

“Today, career and technical education schools are completely different than they were 20 years ago,” Principal Jeffrey Bicsko said during his interview. “The students get to learn while they work. Learning while actually doing things is what separates our students from everyone else.”

Bicsko said the administration relies on input from students and advisory committees from business, industry, labor and academia to continually update career options. The district now has 32 career majors.

“We use experts in the industry to help us buy the equipment we need,” he added. “We want to focus on 21st century learners, so we have to focus on 21st century careers. We have remarkable instructors teaching remarkable students.”

The Middlesex County Vocational and Technical School District, the first full-time county vocational school district in the nation, has seven schools on five campuses, in East Brunswick, Edison, Piscataway, Perth Amboy and Woodbridge. More information is available at www.mcvts.net. Like us on Facebook – there’s a link on the home page.