Several school districts in Massachusetts are receiving funding to improve vocational and technical training programs as part of a state sponsored grant program to prepare students for the modern workforce.
The grants announced Wednesday by Lt. Governor Timothy Murray, Secretary of Education Matthew Malone, and Secretary of Administration and Finance Glen Shor will benefit a diverse range of technical and vocational programs in school districts across the commonwealth. A total of $1.1 million in Vocational School Equipment grants will help 25 districts upgrade and purchase new machinery and equipment.
Shor said investment in vocational programs is key to stabilizing the future workforce in the state…
"Given how well they are linked into the state of the local economy, we feel confident that empowering these schools to be in a position to buy state of the art equipment will work to prepare their students for the modern workforce, and particularly for the needs of jobs in their particular communities," said Shor.
One of the schools receiving funding was the Franklin County Technical School in Turners’ Falls. The school was awarded $100,000 to purchase new equipment for its Machine Tool Technology program.
Jim Laverty, superintendent director of the Franklin County Technical School said that the new equipment will open the program up to three new students per graduating class. He said it is critically important for student success that vocational training programs use up-to-date equipment.
"So we have businesses in the Franklin County area that are turning away work because they don't have the necessary skilled workforce to complete their contracts," said Laverty.
The Franklin County Technical School also partners with local industry. Laverty said that students enrolled in workforce placement programs while in high school have a high likelihood of finding employment in the local economy.
"In their senior year, the week that they're in vocational education, they can actually be placed and working in a machine shop, being paid, and often times that leads to immediate placement upon graduation," said Laverty.
Taconic High School in Pittsfield was awarded $100,000 for its Manufacturing Technology program. Instructor Mark Lausier said that the school will be able to use the funding to purchase equipment including a 3D printer, a robotic arm, and a computer numerically controlled lathe and mill.
Lausier said that the local economy in the Berkshires is in need of younger workers, and that the equipment grants are a step in the right direction.
"People that are in the workforce right are aging and they're getting right up into retirement age, and it's been tough to get people skilled to come in with the necessary requirements that are needed to fill these jobs. A lot of your machinery is driven by computers today so this will give students not only the hands-on but also the technical skills behind operating this machinery," said Lausier.
A wide range of programs in several schools will be supported by the funding, including culinary programs, telecommunications, carpentry, graphic design, and others.
The $1.1 million in state funding will benefit 1,671 students across the state. The funding is also being used to leverage private sector dollars, and approximately $1.9 million in matching funds also will head to the school districts.