Sussex Technical High School Matt McLaughlin, a senior from Harbeson studying Cisco Networking, recently placed seventh in a nationwide computer networking competition from the Business Professionals of America.

McLaughlin said his studies in Tech’s Cisco Networking Academy and his job experience working part-time in Sussex Tech’s career capstone work-based learning program both gave him a leg up.

McLaughlin said he came to Sussex Tech interested in computers and found the computer networking program to be a natural fit. He plans to attend the University of Delaware and become a computer engineer.

McLaughlin will graduate in June with multiple professional-level computer networking certifications, including in computer networking, Windows and Cisco software.

He said the work-based learning program, which places interested Sussex Tech students into part-time jobs during their senior year, was especially important. He worked in Sussex Tech’s information technology office, installing and moving computers and setting up network systems, and is winding down the year with more than 500 hours of on-the-job experience.

2018 was McLaughlin’s first year competing in BPA, which is a career-technical student organization for students pursuing careers in business, finance, office administration and information technology. He placed in the top 20 last year and advanced to the top 10 this year.

At the BPA championship, he had to take a written test of 50 questions in 60 minutes. The top 10 students then went on to a hands-on computer networking test to determine the final ranks.