Career and Technical Education Courses at SCPS

Posted by SCPS Communication on 1/28/2020

Catered food. Houses. Automobiles. Cosmetics. Machines. Healthcare... 

Many members of the Stafford County Public Schools (SCPS) community may believe these items have little in common. Despite that belief, those goods and services share one distinct feature: they are all taught in SCPS public schools under the term “Career and Technical Education,” or CTE. SCPS describes the program as a series of organizations providing students with opportunities to apply academic, technical, and employability knowledge and skills necessary in today’s workforce.  While many Stafford schools are known for athletics or academics, our CTE program spanning all high schools is just as renowned. 

CTE provides students with various experiences beyond the specific trade they are learning. Educators like Chef Sussman, who teach Culinary Arts at Stafford High School, (SHS) focus not only on cooking and catering but also on “workplace readiness.”

“We talk about what’s going to make them [patrons] more interested in going to your place instead of someone else’s place; we talk about career options besides just being a chef at a restaurant,” explained Sussman. “The culinary program is a well rounded, career-oriented program.” 

CTE helps prepare students for their future careers; in Virginia, this is referred to as workplace readiness. Today, many seniors are overlooking trade schools and technical education, instead opting to go straight to university. Some may find this route suitable; however, CTE courses provide an alternate, accessible, future-securing educational path. Not every student performs well in a traditional classroom with traditional subjects, and SCPS is fortunate enough to have programs that make it so every student can effectively learn in their own way. SHS offers many CTE classes, two of which are the Drafting and Culinary Arts programs taught by Robert Jett and Chef Sussman respectively. 

The skills students learn in these programs are not just good for after high school. Sussman’s program allows for students to volunteer and work outside of school, getting paid in either real-world experience or actual money.

“I try to sell as much food as possible to get them [the students] to see that as a chef or as somebody in a food service industry you’re not cooking for home, you’re not cooking for yourself or your family - now you’re cooking in higher amounts for people who are paying you and it needs to be of high quality so they want to return to your restaurant,” said Sussman. 

students making tortellini

Similar to Chef Sussman, Drafting instructor Robert Jett’s program allows for students to draft homes and travel off school grounds to build them. His and Sussman’s courses, as well as various other CTE courses, are involved in the SkillsUSA program, which is an award and certification system aimed toward high school students.

Oftentimes, getting into a highly competitive field like biomedical science or engineering is not easy. The Stafford Academy for Technology (STAT) provides SCPS students with a competitive edge, providing them real-world experience in their field before even applying to university. Amanda Collette’s Biomedical Science STAT program at North Stafford High School (NSHS) provides students with opportunities to dissect and study real organisms, as well as view, live surgeries in the operating room. During the school year and over the summer, Collette provides her students with internship and volunteer opportunities at local health organizations like Mary Washington Hospital. 

“I didn’t really realize how in-depth some of these careers go until I learned and taught about them… Being able to offer the kids opportunities to go on, just, incredible field trips; we got to see an open-heart surgery in November, we go to the hospital’s emergency room and they get behind the scenes tours and meet lots of people with different careers you wouldn’t even think about,” Collette said. 

While all of these programs give back to the community in some way, NSHS’ Automotive Technology Program run by Kenny Wilson (also located at  Brooke Point High School, or BPHS) gives back most directly to the community while teaching students important skills that can get them jobs as mechanics, electricians, and work in other technical fields. People from the broader Stafford community can call the school and arrange for their car to be serviced by the Automotive Technology Program. Once scheduled, they can bring in their car for examination at prices significantly less than average. 

“One of the things I like to stress with my students is, you know, we look around the community and try to find people in the area who need automotive repair work that can’t afford the repair work. Maybe they’re between jobs or whatever the case may be, they can look to bring those cars here to us,” Wilson said. 

Many of the CTE programs extend their services to the community. BPHS and NSHS offer early childcare programs, where members of the community can pay to have their children cared for during the school day. Mountain View High School (MVHS) and SHS offer cosmetology courses and can provide certifications to students looking to get involved with the beauty industry. All five high schools in the county offer firefighting courses in participation with Stafford County Fire and Rescue.

student fanning over a facial

This article hardly touches on all of the classes offered in the Stafford County Public Schools CTE program; there are many ranging from Criminal Justice to Drafting to Mechanics that cannot possibly fit in only one article. If you are interested in learning more about the CTE program, visit the 2020-2021 Program of Studies to view offered courses. This information is timely since students are in the midst of course selection which ends January 30, 2020. While not every school offers the same CTE classes, the county offers a free travel program where students can move between schools during a school day in order to attend the classes they need.