Frequently Asked Questions for Students and Parents
Sussex Tech Career Capstone
- What exactly is Sussex Tech doing differently?
Sussex Tech has always had work-based learning opportunities available to any interested student. This new initiative and focus formalizes that program and integrates it into our core technical curriculum. We want to give our students the chance to gain real-world career experiences, and support our businesses by providing a pipeline of trained, skilled potential employees. We are also committed to increasing the amount of time that seniors will spend receiving hands-on experience at local businesses through cooperative learning.
- How does this new initiative match Sussex Tech’s purpose?
Sussex Tech is refocusing on our core mission of career and technical education. We prepare students for their futures, whether that’s careers or college. That balance has existed all along, but we want to make sure our students who are headed to the workforce have the same types of opportunities to succeed as those who are furthering their education at college or trade schools.
- Is Sussex Tech collaborating with other districts?
Superintendent Stephen Guthrie has been reaching out and working with other district superintendents to promote the changes, and the response has been very positive. The other districts appreciate that Sussex Tech is in a unique position to provide a dedicated career-technical education for Sussex County students who are seeking that opportunity. We have heard nothing but praise for this renewed emphasis of providing students with the Career Capstone experience.
- How will these work-based experiences actually work?
In their senior year, Sussex Tech students will have the opportunity to work part-time in a career field related to their technical area, gaining real-world experience that goes beyond the classroom. For example:
- A dental services student might assist in a clinic or oral surgeon’s office.
- An HVAC-R student could work for a heating and air conditioning company going on calls and doing repairs.
- A criminal justice student could work at a law firm or police department.
Some students will work part-time during the school day, leaving school during periods when they would be in their technical area. Other students will use a two-week rotation schedule, at work for two weeks and in school for two weeks. The precise schedules and arrangements will be worked out individually in conjunction with our counselors and employers.
- How will students balance work and school?
Students will balance work and school the same way they do now – only with even more support from the school district. By integrating work-based learning into our curriculum in the senior year, we’re giving students more time to practice those soft skills and gain hands-on technical experience in their career area. For students who are working during the school day, they will have less stress from having to juggle full-time school followed by part-time work in the afternoons and evenings.
- Has this program been tested out?
For the last two years, Sussex Tech has been piloting the expanded Career Capstone program and reviewing options. In 2018-19, we had 76 seniors – nearly a third of our graduating class – complete the program. The reviews from both employers and students have been very positive.
- Will students be paid? Will they be able to take all that money home?
Yes, students will absolutely be paid just like any other job. This opportunity will help put money in the pockets of students and reward their skills, knowledge and abilities that they have honed over the previous three years here at Sussex Tech.
- How will you ensure students are actually at work?
The Career Capstone program counts not just as a job, but also as part of their career-technical education, so we have systems in place to ensure that students are at work and on time just like they would be for school. We will be tracking time worked through regular timesheets filled out by employers. Our staff will also conduct regular visits, both announced and unannounced, and keep in regular contact with employers to make sure our students are fulfilling their professional obligations.
- How will you ensure that a student has enough actual work to do when they’re on the job?
We work with employers to make sure that our students’ skills and talents are being put to work in their fields. Our staff will conduct regular visits, both announced and unannounced, to job sites to make sure that students are having a positive and productive work experience, and that our business partners are satisfied with the quality of their work. Employers will complete regular evaluations, and we will be in constant contact with students to make sure they are having a high-quality experience.
- What will have to be cut to make room for this work time? Will students be able to do band, choir, JROTC or sports?
Nothing will have to be cut. We are making adjustments to our master schedule by front-loading students’ schedules with academic and other coursework that might have traditionally been put off until the senior year, such as a second semester of physical education. By making those changes, we will be able to increase the amount of time students spend in their technical areas while giving them the opportunity to participate in work-based learning.
Students will have the same opportunities for after-school activity participation, such as athletics. Over time, with an increased emphasis on career and technical education opportunities and work-based learning, there will likely be fewer opportunities for students to take multiple ancillary courses. However, band, choir, and JROTC will still be offered for those students whose schedules will accommodate it.
- How will you ensure there are enough jobs available in the technical areas?
We already have technical advisory committees including business leaders from all of our 17 technical areas, and they tell us that employers are ready to hire our students. We have hired a new career-technical education coordinator whose is already working to uild relationships with businesses and prospective employers so that we can ensure that there are enough jobs to match with our seniors. If we aren’t able to obtain placements, we will use alternate arrangements – such as computer networking seniors interning with our information technology department, or environmental/landscaping students working alongside our professional groundskeeping staff.
- My student does not have a car. What if she gets a job on the other side of the county? How will you help students with transportation?
While we will work with all our students to find career opportunities, we know that job sites may not be centrally located or near where an individual student lives. While students will not be paid for travel time, it also will not count against their educational time in the classroom. We will work with students to help them gain transportation to their jobs, which may include carpooling, public transportation, or other arrangements. We are also working with Delaware Technical Community College to simulate work-based learning opportunities for students without transportation.
- What has been the response from Sussex Tech staff and teachers?
The response has been very positive. Our teachers are very enthusiastic about these opportunities for their students. Teachers in both the core academic and technical areas recognize that students need and want more time and more opportunities in their career fields. We have had two years to pilot various Career Capstone schedules and work out any issues. While we are making some adjustments to our staffing assignments and allocations of open positions, we are not eliminating any positions to make this happen.
- When will this start?
The Career Capstone program is already under way. We had more than 70 seniors in the Class of 2019 participate, and about 110 seniors in the Class of 2020 have expressed interest in working this fall. Schedule changes will be phased in over the next several years so that the Class of 2023 – freshmen entering this fall – will be the first senior class to have full access to these new opportunities.
- Frequently Asked Questions for Students and Parents
- Op-Ed Column: Sussex Tech is transforming technical education with a renewed focus on careers
- News: Sussex Tech hires first career-technical education coordinator
- Student Profile: Sussex Tech graduate aiming for career as mechanic got on-the-job experience in auto shops
- Student Profile: Sussex Tech grad gained first-hand experience working in oral surgery office