By: Follow South Jersey Staff
PENNSAUKEN, N.J. — Federal, state, and local officials broke ground on an approximately $14 million expansion of Camden County Technical School’s (CCTS) culinary program on Thursday, October 6. The expansion of both the Pennsauken and Gloucester Township campuses of CCTS will begin a $24 million investment into critical classroom space to train a 21st century workforce.
“The mission of our technical schools is vital to workforce development in Camden County, so we can have a strong foundation of employees in a variety of fields,” said Ed McDonnell, Camden County Commissioner deputy director. “With this funding, CCTS will be able to continue its outstanding curriculum, from robotics to culinary education, while also expanding its technical education programming and career opportunities. This grant money will greatly benefit the students and employers across the county, and we’re excited for the future at CCTS.”
For the Pennsauken campus, the renovation will add a total of 20,99-square-feet to the building that will house culinary career labs on two floors along with two theory/instructional classrooms and an instructional support/service simulation kitchen for front-of-house instructional practices. The addition will also allow for the installation of an elevator connecting the ground floor to the mezzanine level.
“These expansions are going play a huge role in helping our students and prospective students, be as prepared for the work force as they can be, come graduation,” said Commissioner Jon Young. “These projects will enhance the learning environment for CCTS students, giving them top-quality, hands-on experience, they can take them in their future careers. Whether its culinary arts, manufacturing, engineering and beyond, the students that come through CCTS will receive the best possible education and that’s thanks in large part, to our leaders at the state and county level seeing the value in these programs and investing in them.”
In July 2021, Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation to award $220 million in grants to expand career and technical education at 15 New Jersey vocational-technical school districts. This funding, which New Jersey voters approved in November 2018 by passing the Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act, will help districts like CCTS take major steps forward to meet both student and employer demands for career and technical education programming across the state. For districts to pursue grant funding from the state, they needed to secure a 25% match from their counties, which the Camden County Board of Commissioners happily supported.
At the groundbreaking, Congressman Donald Norcross talked about the impact of these new investments into both campuses and the effect it will have on students.
“As a proud graduate of New Jersey public schools, I’m excited to see Camden County and the state investing in critical workforce development programs that empower local students to be career-ready on Day One,” said Congressman Norcross, who is an electrician by trade. “The new facilities will increase opportunities for our kids and equip them with the technical skills they need to succeed anywhere from the professional kitchen to the robotics lab. Camden County Technical Schools play a critical role in our education system, and I’m going to keep fighting in Congress to bring additional funding for school construction and workforce development programs to South Jersey.”
The expansion at the Pennsauken Campus will open new seats for 80 Culinary Arts students over four years and will allow the additional enrollment of 20 students in other career and technical programs. By the end of the fourth school year following project’s completion, the school will be able to accommodate 100 more students, increasing enrollment by 14%.
“This program expansion is critical for our Pennsauken Campus to meet local demand and will enable us to provide advanced-level training in state-of-the art facilities,” said Karen DiGiacobbe, assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction, assessment and grants for CCTS. “Also, in reviewing our admissions data, we have found on average more than 40% of incoming students request culinary arts as one of their top three career choices on their application. In fact, culinary arts is the highest career program area of interest for freshman applicants.”
In addition to the Pennsauken campus, the Gloucester Township Campus was awarded $5.25 million to create a new career program based around manufacturing engineering technology (MET). The project will add an additional 19,206-square-feet to Building 6 which will house the new career program, a MET Career Lab, a MET Design Theory Lab, three career and technical education (CTE) related Theory/Instructional rooms, a MET Simulation Lab, a MET Physical Science Lab, as well as a large group instruction area and related support spaces.
“CCTS recently awarded the construction bids for both projects and are on track to open each facility for students for the 2024-2025 school year,” said Tony DePrince, manager of district operations for CCTS. “Our expansion plans are cutting edge and quite impressive.”
To offer a wider range of CTE programming to students, the Gloucester Township project will increase capacity by 80 MET students over the course of four years and reduce bottlenecks in other career programs allowing the additional enrollment of 40 new students in other CTE programs. This will enable the school to enroll 120 more students at the Gloucester Township Campus, increasing participation in CTE programs by 10%.
“Our county vocational-technical school programs are in high demand by New Jersey students and their families who realize the value in getting a head start on both workplace and college readiness,” said Jackie Burke, executive director of the New Jersey Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools. “The Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act construction projects, like the ones happening at Camden County Technical Schools, will not only add space to better meet student demand, but will create and update classrooms with the latest tools and technologies used by professionals across all industries. The investment made by both the state and Camden County’s commissioners will prepare a new generation of skilled workers to find personal career success while aiding their local and state economies.”
CCTS will continue to provide updates on the projects completed with bond act funding on its website ccts.org and its social media pages.
“We greatly appreciate the opportunity to expand our career program offerings at our two campuses of the Camden County Technical School (CCTS) District,” said Frederick Cappello, interim superintendent. “Our students, as well as employers, will truly benefit from this.”
Students are already reaping benefits in the renowned culinary arts program and are looking forward to the new enhancements.
“My career program has led me to be confident enough to start my own business, Bri’s Secret Kitchen, which is currently featured on social media. I found that I have a passion for baking and make a “surprise” item each week for my viewers,” said Briyana Barnes, a senior Culinary Arts student at the Pennsauken Campus of Camden County Technical Schools. “I look forward to attending the grand opening of the expanded culinary department in 2024, and I know future students are going to be thrilled to be working in such an amazing space.”
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