Putting education to work

| 26 Feb 2015 | 02:55

By Anya Tikka
— The Career Technical Education program at the Delaware Valley High School is introducing some innovative new programs, starting with an enhanced unit on automotive emissions.

Teachers of English, reading, math, and other academic subjects work with the teachers who devised the program — automotive teacher Mike Dobson and science teacher Pete Supko — attending classes and interacting with the students. The course is doing so well, the Dobson and Supko were invited to give a presentation at the National Career Tech Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. The program gives a boost to DV graduates looking to join the work force.

High School principal Brian Blaum said Supko suggested the program after attending an instructional session in the area where the idea was presented.

Supko teaches environmental science while Dobson teaches automotive exhaust emissions, two fields that naturally intersect. And Dobson thought adding business skills in the form of writing and other English skills was a good idea.

Before the program started at DV, it went through a rigorous vetting process to show that it was needed. The teachers did extensive research canvassing area businesses.

“We had to ask businesses within a 50-mile radius," said Dobson.

They including Scranton, Honesdale, and surrounding areas in Pennsylvania, as well as Sussex, N.J., and Middletown, N.Y.

"In order to get approval, we had to show there were at least 30 apprentice jobs for the next five to ten years that paid $32,000 to $35,000 per year, a sustainable level to support a family," he said.

The automotive business is a good place to start, he says.

“Automotive is not going to go away," said Dobson. "As Americans, we like our cars. Technology might change, become more complex, and cars may become electric or self-driving, but people are still going to need mechanics to do maintenance and when it doesn’t work.”

Last year, English teacher Erin Bates and math teacher Jeff Karulski came to the classes. This year, the focus is on business writing skills, which is being taught by reading specialists Susan Lemenille and Allison Newman. Students are learning to write business letters, resumes, written reports, and invoices — just about any writing skill needed in a business.

The students get reading assignments too. And by the time they leave, they have a portfolio.

“Initial student response was cautious, but when they saw the program, they bought it,” Dobson explained.

He said one of his students told him it was the first time he'd ever acquired a writing skill that he felt he was going to use in his life.

Dominick Divirgilio and Justin Tent, both age 17 and high school seniors, were enthusiastic about what they’ve been learning.

“It’s definitely a great help, especially in job applications, writing resumes and cover letters," said Dominick.

Justin agreed. “None of the other classes teaches us to write resumes,” he said.

Both already have places in technical colleges and plan to open their own shops eventually.

Just add passionKids who stick to the program have a passion for automotive work.

“They love cars, trucks, that’s what they want to do themselves after they leave," said Dobson. "We want to show them it’s not just about that, but also about math, science, and writing. It’s a chance for the kids to get in a program for mechanics. It shows them that academics are linked, that they are important for what they’ll be doing, it ties in with the knowledge they need in a shop.”

The program currently has 49 students, from 10th to 12th grade. Last year, 12 kids graduated. Usually, one or two graduates go on to start their own businesses, but most complete their training at area shops. Other graduates go to technical colleges, either Johnson Tech in Scranton or Lincoln Tech in Mahwah, N.J., or to Ohio Tech, or into the military.

"Twenty-five percent of last year’s graduates from the program, or 3 out of 12, went into the military,” Dobson said. “In the military, mechanical skills are in demand.”

Typically, 7 percent of all graduates from Delaware Valley go into military, Blaum added.

Space is limited. Out of 60 applicants, only 15 to 20 students are selected. Students with a passion for automotive work will get selected, because they're the ones who will stick to the program, Dobson said.

The physical space where the teaching is done is also cramped. Students shuffled around between classes and shop just to keep going. Dobson and Blaum said upcoming construction work at the school was going to be a big help.

“We’re really excited that the (school board) intends to expand the CTE building,” Blaum said. “The new additional space will enhance students learning. It will give us additional shop space and additional class room space that we don’t have now,” Dobson said.

The current facilities were built in 1970.