Sussex County is transforming technical education with a renewed focus on careers
Tabitha Harris has known for years that she wants to work as an auto technician. So she came to Sussex Technical High School, where for three years she studied in our auto tech program and earned top-level certifications.
Over the last year, as a senior, she spent half her time outside of school — not skipping classes, but hard at work pursuing her passion in the garage at Capitol Tire & Auto Service in Dover, learning the finer art of alignments and timing belts.
Harris was one of nearly a third of our senior class last year to spend school time on the job, earning a paycheck while working in their technical area and gaining hands-on experience, learning soft skills and being prepared for wherever their journey takes them.
“It’s a fantastic option and a great opportunity for people,” she reflected. “It’s made my senior year fly by, for sure.”
Work-based learning is at the core of Sussex Tech’s new Career Capstone program, which will expand the same opportunity to our entire senior class beginning with this fall’s entering freshmen, phased in over several years. Already, we have about 110 seniors who have expressed interest in the program this fall.
It was developed in response to local businesses that need employees with real-world workplace experience and top-notch technical skills. Sussex Tech’s students in this program will have both.
This initiative is part of a broader effort by the district’s new leadership to strengthen Sussex Tech’s commitment to career-technical education, meet employers’ needs, plan strategically and increase transparency of our own operations.
Sussex County students who choose a career-technical education deserve the best opportunities we can give them — including buildings, equipment and teachers — and we are working hard to deliver all of those things. We are pleased to know that that our members in the General Assembly support the work we have done so far to transform Sussex Tech and prepare the district for its future as well.
Our students hail from all corners of Sussex County — Seaford, Georgetown, Millsboro, Laurel, Bridgeville, Milford and many points beyond. Students complete both an intense three-year career-technical focus and meet all the academic requirements that a traditional high school provides.
Interest in the unique education we offer is stronger than ever before. We had the largest applicant pool in our history last year, when nearly a third of Sussex eighth-graders wanted to study at Sussex Tech and submitted their names to our impartial, blind lottery system that is now run by the Delaware Data Service Center.
In the late 1960s, a few years after Sussex Tech opened its doors, a follow-up study of graduates highlighted students now working in their fields. Flora Lee Collins of Seaford, a practical nursing student, was at Peninsula General Hospital. John E. Phillips of Bridgeville, a welding graduate, served in the Navy in Vietnam as a Seabee. Praise for Sussex Tech graduates came from A.W. Perdue and Son and I.G. Burton & Company.
Like those local employers, Sussex Tech is still going strong today. What remains at the core of our mission is the commitment to preparing students for their future — whether that be career, college or the military.
Just as our predecessors prepared Dale Mears of Georgetown, a 1964 graduate, for his job at Boulevard Motors, we’re working today to ensure that Tabitha Harris, Class of 2019, and her fellow students have the same opportunities and pathways open to them.
For more information on the Sussex Technical School District and our Career Capstone program, please visit www.sussexvt.k12.de.us/highschool/careercapstone/.
Warren Reid, of Laurel, is president of the Sussex Technical Board of Education. Stephen Guthrie, of Bethany Beach, is superintendent of the Sussex Technical School District.
By Warren Reid & Stephen Guthrie
Sussex Technical School District