MCVTS students get hands-on experience through new senior mentorship program

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EDISON — Twenty students at Middlesex County Vocational and Technical Schools will get a hands-on experience working alongside engineers in the workplace through the new senior mentorship program.

Seven companies will be involved in the pilot project, with plans to expand the program in the next school year, according to Mark Mastrolia, cooperative education coordinator for the Middlesex County Vocational and Technical Schools (MCVTS).

“We want to introduce our students to real companies – small and large local businesses – hopefully in an area that they have an interest in,” Sean McDonald, MCVTS director of career and technical education said. “We certainly plan to continue this program next year and beyond.”

The senior mentorship program at the Edison Academy began this school year to provide students with an opportunity to work on short-term projects alongside engineers in the workplace, McDonald said.

Kamakashi Sharma, a senior at the Middlesex County Academy for Science, Mathematics and Engineering Technologies, got to see the practical applications of engineering during 10 days at Arm-R-Lite, an overhead door company in Piscataway.

“They had me go around all the major departments,” she said. “I spent a few days in each one: engineering, CAD (computer-assisted drafting), and finance and marketing.”

Sharma, a North Brunswick resident and civil and mechanical engineering major, said she was impressed by the interpersonal relationships among the employees, and how people in every department understood and appreciated the engineering that went into producing their products.

McDonald said a summer program also is being considered for Edison Academy juniors.

MCVTS students have been working at Arm-R-Lite for years, and its president, Shannon McGrady, was the district’s business partner of the year in 2016.

“We introduced [Sharma] to our Fast-CAD program and she was able to learn that very quickly and do some actual work,” McGrady said. “We’re very proud of her.”

McDonald said Arm-R-Lite, which makes welded aluminum and glass garage doors for residential and commercial customers, is a great partner.

“They do a lot of engineering, so it is a natural to take students from the Edison Academy,” he said.

The district also is involved in mentorship programs through the New Jersey Carpenters Apprentice Training and Education Fund at the Carpenters Union training center in Kenilworth, and students at the Middlesex County Academy for Allied Health and Biomedical Sciences in Woodbridge work with mentors on their senior “capstone” projects.

The Middlesex County Vocational and Technical School District, the first full-time county vocational school district in the nation, has seven schools on five campuses, in East Brunswick, Edison, Piscataway, Perth Amboy and Woodbridge. The Perth Amboy Campus, the Edison Academy and the Woodbridge Academy have been named National Blue Ribbon Schools.