The number of students is East Suffolk BOCES On the rise, its reputation may soon follow.

Career and technical education enrollment in ESBOCES, a collaborative program that offers trades-oriented programs to students in 51 school districts from Brentwood to Montauk, has been increasing over the past five years. Its 2022-2023 program enrolls 2,040 students, a 10-year high, including 314 students from North Fork and Shelter Island high schools.

To meet growing demand, ESBOCES has partnered with the Mattituck-Cutchogue Unified Free School District to offer woodworking classes at Mattituck High School. Juniors and seniors can choose to take a one- or two-year course during which they will work in the school’s soon-to-be-renovated woodshop. Through the coursework, students can earn high school and college credit as well as various industry certifications.

ESBOCES held a showcase last Wednesday at the Peconic Community Center in Southold to promote their Mattituck program and other products and try to dispel misconceptions about their services and the students who use them.

“When I was growing up . . . there was this perception [BOCES] “Probably the biggest misconception is that it’s for kids who aren’t ready for postsecondary education,” said Leah Arnold, Director of Career, Technical and Adult Education at ESBOCES. [schooling.] It fluctuates from year to year, but 80% to 90% of kids [have gone on] Get more education in the last two decades. “

BOCES, which stands for Board of Cooperative Educational Services, is a public organization created by the New York State Legislature in 1948 to facilitate cooperation among local school districts. According to the BOCES website, its original intent was to expand equal educational opportunity to smaller rural school districts where services would otherwise be “uneconomical, inefficient or inaccessible.”

Demand for many of the program’s products has increased significantly in recent years.

“What’s really hot right now is construction,” Ms Arnold said. “Manufacturing industries such as welding… [and] We have a waiting list for Electrical and a waiting list for Plumbing. HVAC, for which I hired three full-time teachers. “

Importantly, the organization’s one-year and two-year programs are not the end of a student’s education. Upon completion, participants will earn college credit and industry certifications that will help them whether they are going to college or entering the workforce.

Phoenix Samolewski, a junior at Mattituck High who will be completing his second year of the ESBOCES woodworking program at Bellport High next year, is embracing the different options that are open to him after graduation.

“I’m going to get at least a two-year degree at SUNY somewhere … and I can still use that to get a job instead of someone without a degree,” he said. “I want to be in construction, but I’m not sure what it is. I love building houses and it’s fun, but I have to see it.”

Robert Van Brunt, director of ESBOCES’ adult education program, said that while misconceptions persist, the improved reputation of so-called “essential workers” since the pandemic could make careers in the industry easier. attractive. He added that students like Phoenix were in high demand at North Fork, whether they went straight into entry-level jobs or developed their skills through on-the-job apprenticeships.

“We get employers [scouting] All the while, people who own a husband-and-wife construction firm,” he said. “And because [Phoenix] …with OSHA-10 and OSHA-30 [certifications] He’s already behind him, he can join the North East Regional Council’s carpenter apprenticeship program and has been for hours. “

Southold Town director Scott Russell, who attended last week’s BOCES show, called the organization “one of the least known resources for young people and adults” and could fill gaps in the local workforce.

“not only [BOCES] Giving young residents skills that they can employ and utilize locally, where they can earn an income and make a good living, will meet a real need in the town: merchants and artisans,” he said. “There is a huge demand for skilled labor ,therefore [businesses] can make a difference.You keep seeing ads for help [for] Carpenters, joiners, plumbers, garages, electricians, you name it. “

The addition of a new BOCES woodworking class is just one aspect of the local school’s increased emphasis on technical education. Mattituck plans to open to students in the Southold, Greenport and Shelter Island school districts and will house the carpentry workshop in the school’s science, technology, engineering and math wing, which will undergo renovations this summer, according to Mattituck — Superintendent Shawn, Cutchogue Petretti.

“Over the past few years we have introduced welding and small engine repairs [electives], they’ve become very, very popular with our students,” Mr. Petretti said. “We’ll have a metal shop, and then we’ll expand into another area for our robotics and engineering program. “

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