Sussex Tech adds senior Career Capstone experience
Sussex Technical High School this week announced a new work-based capstone experience for its incoming freshman class, part of a transformation of the school’s award-winning career and technical education program.
Beginning with this fall’s freshman class, all seniors will have the opportunity to work part-time in a job in their technical area for at least half of their senior year, gaining real-world experience and supporting the needs of local employers. Students will also be increasing the amount of time they spend in their technical areas by about 50 percent.
The new program, known as the Tech Career Capstone, demonstrates Sussex Tech’s commitment to career and technical education, said Board of Education President Warren Reid. It follows on the strategic plan adopted this summer by the Board of Education grounded in the district’s new core statement, “Preparing Students for Their Future.”
“Our students graduate ready for careers or college, so no matter their path, they have a place,” Reid said. “As a district, our path forward includes working hand-in-hand with local employers and business leaders to help prepare our students for success.”
The high school is changing schedules and modifying the curriculum to ensure students have increased time in their chosen technical area. Students, who graduate with professional certifications and licenses, select one of 17 areas of concentration, such as automotive technologies, carpentry, and early childcare and education.
The Tech Career Capstone program was developed in response to requests from local employers who need employees with real-world workplace experience, district officials noted. Sussex Tech’s students have a wealth of technical skills that employers are looking for, and the Career Capstone initiative will give them additional soft skills as well, said Superintendent Stephen Guthrie.
Guthrie said the goal is to improve students’ skills, build connections with the workforce and give them valuable experience that can translate into future careers.
“Our graduates already possess solid career and technical skills, with many of them holding valuable industry-standard certifications,” Guthrie said. “We are giving them hands-on experience in the workforce that will help prepare them even more for careers or college and enhance the quality of a Sussex Tech education. It’s a win-win that helps employers fill their own skills gaps and identify potential new hires early on.”
The new program will be phased in over the next several years, beginning in full with the Class of 2023. Incoming freshmen, who were accepted through a random, blind lottery, were informed of the forthcoming changes when admission offers were made.
About 75 seniors have piloted the Career Capstone program, either working after school several days a week or working full-time for two weeks and attending school full-time for two weeks.
Recent graduate Tabitha Harris of Milford, an automotive technologies student who worked at an auto repair shop in Dover, said the program has given her important experience solving a wide range of problems.
“It’s a fantastic option and a great opportunity for people,” she said.
Recent graduate Gabrielle Guy of Laurel, a dental-services student who plans to become an oral surgeon, said working at an oral surgery practice in Seaford has given her a foot in the door.
“You’re getting an incredible amount of exposure and experience in your field,” she said.
Current students will have the opportunity to participate in the Career Capstone program as they become seniors. There are already about 110 seniors this fall who have expressed interest in the program.
“Sussex Tech’s commitment to preparing our students for their future has never been stronger,” Guthrie said. “This renewed focus on direct workplace experience will strengthen our students’ education and forge connections that will help Sussex County employers.”