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CREST HAVEN - Cape May County Technical School District welcomed its Advisory Council Feb. 6 for a review of the past year. District Superintendent Nancy Hudanich and Director of Curriculum and Instruction Nancy Driscoll started the evening with a presentation on the district’s approach to education.

From the first slide, it was clear that the district takes its central role of providing career education seriously. A career focus permeated each part of the discussion.

By keeping that career focus, the district maintains a coherent approach across programs as varied as cosmetology, computer technology, carpentry and public safety.

Key is that the specific skill area of one of the district’s many programs is only a piece of a larger effort aimed at career development.

Methods vary and might include Related Trade Instruction, leading to apprenticeship opportunities, or rigorous specialty programs teaching high school students real-world job skills, while arming them with industry credentials.

Through it all, the focus remains on the catchphrase for the evening: “Begin with the end in mind.” Begin and execute an educational approach that, at all times, is focused on arming students with the mindset and skills necessary for successful careers.

That the approach may involve culinary arts or participation in a college-level course in marine weather is of less significance than the glue that holds all the various skill and knowledge options together, a focus on success after graduation.

Along with specific programs, the district incorporates a set of common focuses in its career readiness goals. Students are exposed to character education in an age when many shy from such value-laden terms. Aspects of career readiness, including leadership training, critical-thinking abilities, ethical behavior in the workplace and society and communication skills, are given equal standing, with the specifics of welding, hospitality management and dental technology, to name a few of the many program tracts open to county high school students.

The career-focused high school is also ready to support those students for whom career goals will entail a post-secondary education. As with any public high school in the state, all the same pre-college programs are available for the student intending a post-secondary education as a next step.

Careers take many paths, and they all have value. In an environment where so many public officials tout college as a necessary step, a broader view of success is an important corrective.

The high school, while often the focus of attention when one considers the Technical School District, is part of what the Advisory Council heard about. The district is there for adults seeking to gain new skills. It’s there to give instruction in English, as a second language, as a crucial skill for many of the county’s hospitality workers. It has post-secondary programs at one end, and non-credit life enhancement courses at the other.

As the evening moved from presentations to networking, the school’s culinary arts students demonstrated their skills. From appetizers and world cheeses to entrees of roast beef, chicken and pasta primavera to desserts that had guests overindulging, the offerings allowed the students not only to display their skills, but to describe the food in ways that demonstrated the knowledge standing behind those skills.

“Begin with the end in mind.” It is a phrase that resonated throughout the evening’s activities. It is also the expression of a career focus that brings unity to an array of educational opportunities.

In education circles, it is common to hear discussions of college readiness. Seldom does one see and hear about an interconnected approach to career readiness.

To contact Vince Conti, email vconti@cmcherald.com.