There is an age-old question that every high school must eventually face: college or trade school? For many students, trade school is a wonderful option, but they find themselves caught at a crossroads when trying to decide if college is right for them. To provide students with a path to do both, Thomas Edison State University has partnered with Roxbury High School to provide students with meaningful opportunities in post-trade education.

In a first-of-its-kind collaboration, Thomas Edison State University (TESU) plans to leverage TESU’s Professional Learning Reviews (PLR) in assessing pre-apprenticeship Career Connections certifications. Through this initiative, students at the Morris County school can receive up to 16 college credits and potentially even save $7,000 in tuition toward a college degree.

Career Connections is an innovative program designed to help high school students learn the hands-on skills needed for a career in carpentry. In addition to their academic curriculum, students are encouraged to take advantage of the registered apprentice program at Northeast Regional Carpenters Apprentice Training Center in Edison, NJ.

To discuss the program’s value in detail, TESU staff recently visited Roxbury High School to meet with faculty and students participating in the Career Connections pre-apprenticeship program. Harmon was joined by Ali Maysilles, associate director for Strategic Initiatives at TESU, to meet with approximately 30 high school seniors who have already earned the certification. Participants in the sessions included Tom Bender and David Iannucci, Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters; Robert Hopkins, Carpenters Local 254; Joe Youcha, Building to Teach; Mike Schloff and Hannah Patrick, Maplewoodshop; and, Patty Grant and Brandon Fishbaum, Carpenter Contractor Trust who spoke with the students. The sessions were coordinated by Frank Caccavale who oversees the Structural Design and Fabrication classes and the Career Connections program implementation at the high school.

Caccavale’s students are already making their mark in the building trades and display an early propensity for community service. Their latest group project involves building a modular three-bedroom Habitat for Humanity house on the school’s property. The finished home will be transported in two sections to a local site and donated to a family in need.

Per Dr. Jeff S. Harmon, vice provost for Strategic Initiatives and Institutional Effectiveness at the University, “TESU reviewed the Carpenters International Training Fund’s Career Connections program in 2022 and through its PLR methodology and rigorous academic evaluations, determined that the learning taking place in the program equated to 16 college-level credits. Students participating in the program have the option to apply those credits to an AAS degree in Construction and Facilities Support, a BS degree in Construction, or a BS degree in Technical Studies at the University; or they can obtain an Individual Learning Account (ILA) transcript with the credits applied and transfer* them to another institution.”

Harmon went on to state, “We recognize that not all learning happens in a traditional classroom setting.  Learning occurs in many ways, takes many shapes and appears in many forms. TESU has a longstanding history and expertise in evaluating all types of learning for credit and awards approximately 66,000 credits annually to students through Prior Learning Reviews, at no cost to them. Our institution has served as a pioneer in credit-for-prior learning and we continue to blaze new trails. Recently, through an $849,000 grant provided by the New Jersey Department of Labor, TESU has ramped up its registered apprenticeship PLR evaluations in the state to unprecedented levels.”

This innovative initiative is just one way that Thomas Edison State University is showing up every day to make education more easily accessible to all. With a special emphasis on adult learners and non-traditional students, TESU empowers students from New Jersey and beyond to pursue a college degree. Identified by The New York Times as “the college that paved the way for flexibility,” the University is a national leader in the assessment of adult learning and a pioneer in the use of educational technologies.

TESU continues to change lives every day, and students of Roxbury High School are just the most recent beneficiaries of this innovative institution. To learn more, please visit or email for additional details.

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