Pre-Career Courses a Success at Jefferson Academic
ESBOCES Leverages Extensive History of Career Training for Middle Schoolers
Career exploration starts early at Jefferson Academic Center. In 2017, when the New York State Education Department amended an existing regulation to allow schools to offer 1.75 credits of study in any of six CTE (career and technical education) disciplines, additional introductory career material was embedded into existing classes for seventh and eighth graders at Jefferson. Jefferson Academic Center is an Eastern Suffolk BOCES school that provides educational services for students with special needs in grades six through eight.
All New York State middle schools are required to offer a Technology and Home and Careers curriculum. At Jefferson Academic, those classes have been enhanced to give students the opportunity to begin more in-depth career exploration in the culinary arts through Home and Careers, and carpentry, small engine repair, and robotics, which are introduced in Technology.
Home and Careers now encompasses a curriculum that includes a more comprehensive focus on knife skills, sanitation, food preparation and, pre-COVID, catering and service. Prior to the pandemic, students catered food for all school events, and prepared and served food in the tiny school café area. In addition to basic carpentry and engineering, Technology now contains small engine work and basic robotics due to the engine repair and programming of remote control cars and planes.
Introductory Audio Production CTE material is embedded into the school’s music class. A small studio houses basic audio equipment and production software. Students learn to use the equipment and try their hand at such things as adding new background music to existing commercials.
Coding is also now offered, and future plans include connecting the pre-CTE classes to some of the academic courses, such as incorporating algebra into the Technology class. Said Jefferson Principal Holly Iuliucci, “This will help answer that question so many students ask, ‘Why do I have to learn this?’ ”
All of the Jefferson pre-classes have CTE or SCE (special career education) counterparts at the agency. ESBOCES excels at career exploration with its strong CTE Program, referred to as the Academy, and its SCE programs for students with special needs. Each year, pre-COVID, eighth graders took field trips to Islip Career Center in Oakdale, an ESBOCES SCE school, to meet with teachers and visit their classrooms.
“Pre-CTE classes are where our students can be hands on,” said Iuliucci. “I think these courses build a lot of confidence for young people. They see something that they built or that they made, and that someone else is able to enjoy. That is also something they may want to further explore in 11th grade as a potential career.”