Presentation in CAIT Auditorium

CAIT Associate Director Dr. Pat Szary speaks to Franklin Township High School students at the 2022 Bridge to Employment (BTE) Kickoff Meeting.

Bridge to Employment (BTE) is a Johnson & Johnson youth development program designed to inspire young people from historically marginalized communities to stay in school and pursue STEM careers. A local site at Franklin Township High School in NJ kicked off year 3 of its program this September with lab tours, technology demonstrations, and presentations at Rutgers CAIT, the School of Engineering, and the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering.

From visualizing the data that powers self-driving cars at CAIT’s Virtual Reality Lab, to breaking concrete cylinders at the Structures and Material Lab, Franklin Township High School seniors got a chance to explore exciting STEM careers at Rutgers University as part of the Bridge to Employment (BTE) program.

The Franklin Township, NJ, BTE program officially started its 3rd year this September. To kick off the school year, they brought students to Rutgers University for tours of the labs and innovative technology at the Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT).

Bridge to Employment was first launched by Johnson & Johnson in 1992 to provide young people from historically marginalized communities with new opportunities to pursue higher education and career aspirations. BTE has since expanded to more than 75 sites worldwide.

Lab tours at Rutgers CAIT.

Lab tours at Rutgers CAIT. From top to bottom: Hydraulic Flume Apparatus at the Urban & Coastal Water System Lab; cracking a concrete cylinder at the Structures & Material Lab; and a smart mobility data display at the VR Lab.

The Franklin Township High School program was launched in 2020, with the goal of increasing the number of young people from the school enrolled in higher education and pursuing STEM careers. The program accomplishes this by providing mentorship opportunities with J&J, a range of career training and college readiness courses and resources, community engagement opportunities, and exposure to STEM career pathways.

The 2022 Kickoff Meeting at Rutgers CAIT introduced students to STEM pathways in transportation and engineering through lab tours and exciting technology demonstrations. They were joined by J&J mentors, Franklin Township High School staff, and Rutgers faculty who guided them through the labs and spoke with the students about college and career opportunities.

Students saw the Virtual Reality Lab, Structures and Material Lab, and Urban and Coastal Water System Lab at CAIT and the Rutgers School of Engineering. There they were able to witness the real-time data that powers Autonomous Vehicle technology, engage with high-tech equipment such as a Hydraulic Flume Apparatus, and watch how a concrete cylinder cracks and breaks under pressure.

At the same time, students had the opportunity to talk with Rutgers faculty and graduate students about their research and career paths in STEM.

“This was a great opportunity for students to engage with different science careers that will be available to them in college, and to get a better sense of their interests,” said Victor A. Perez, Senior Program Coordinator at Rutgers and BTE. “We are looking forward to a successful third year and to hosting similar events that will introduce our seniors to more STEM pathways as they prepare for college.”

CAIT Associate Director Dr. Pat Szary said the Center is proud to support youth development programs such as BTE, especially at a time when there is a growing need for transportation and infrastructure workers in the Northeast region.

Through the BTE and Rutgers Youth Success Program (RYSP), CAIT is leveraging its existing interdisciplinary network and cross-sector partnerships throughout the Northeast region to support pathways for youth in STEM careers, and to help place under-represented young people in successful transportation, infrastructure and engineering careers.

“Supporting the next generation of STEM professionals is critical to building a skilled and equitable workforce, especially in the transportation, infrastructure, and engineering fields where there is a great demand,” Dr. Szary said. “Initiatives such as BTE are an important step in accomplishing these goals, and CAIT is honored to work with the program.”

View more images from the 2022 Bridge to Employment Kickoff Meeting in the slideshow below.