Sussex Technical High School announced July 23 a new work-based capstone experience for its incoming freshman class, part of a transformation of the school’s award-winning career and technical education program.

Beginning with this fall’s freshman class, all seniors will have the opportunity to work part-time in a job in their technical area for at least half of their senior year, gaining valuable real-world experience and supporting the needs of local employers. Students will also be increasing the amount of time they spend in their technical areas by about 50%.

The new program, known as the Tech Career Capstone, demonstrates Sussex Tech’s commitment to career and technical education, said Board of Education President Warren Reid. It follows on the strategic plan adopted this summer by the Board of Education grounded in the district’s new core statement, “Preparing Students for Their Future.”

“Our students graduate ready for careers or college, so no matter their path, they have a place,” said Reid. “As a district, our path forward includes working hand-in-hand with local employers and business leaders to help prepare our students for success.”

The high school is changing schedules and modifying curriculum to ensure students have increased time in their chosen technical area. Students, who graduate with professional certifications and licenses, select one of 17 areas of concentration, such as automotive technologies, carpentry and early child care and education.

The Tech Career Capstone program was developed in response to requests from local employers who need employees with real-world workplace experience. Sussex Tech’s students have a wealth of technical skills that employers are looking for, and the Career Capstone initiative will give them additional soft skills as well, said Superintendent Stephen Guthrie.

Guthrie said the goal is to improve students’ skills, build connections with the workforce, and give them valuable experience that can translate into future careers.

The new program will be phased in over the next several years, beginning in full with the Class of 2023. Incoming freshmen, who were accepted through a random, blind lottery, were informed of the forthcoming changes when admission offers were made.

About 75 seniors have piloted the Career Capstone program, either working after school several days a week or working full-time for two weeks and attending school full-time for two weeks.

Current students will have the opportunity to participate in the Career Capstone program as they become seniors. There are already about 110 seniors this fall who have expressed interest in the program.