March 19, 2018
VIEWPOINT

Voke/tech career development needs funding

Susan Mailman
Timothy P. Murray

The Alliance for Vocational Technical Education is a coalition of organizations and employers that came together in 2014 to expand access to vocational, technical and agricultural schools. This formation of AVTE is especially timely given the approximate wait list of 3,000-5,000 Massachusetts students looking to these career and technical education programs.

This waiting list has grown because parents and students recognize our voke/tech schools prepare students with valuable skills for good-paying jobs and career paths in important sectors of the economy, and provide the academic rigor preparing students for post-secondary opportunities.

The goals and objectives of AVTE are to better align existing resources and secure additional funding to expand access to our voke/tech schools and programs, and eliminate waiting lists. First, we are seeking out ways to open existing voke/tech schools during after-school hours and the summer. Secondly, we are seeking funding through the Baker Administration and the legislature for the Massachusetts School Building Authority for a bricks-and-mortar expansion of the state's voke/tech schools, as well as for modern equipment. In both instances, funding would go towards expansion of schools and programs the state and local officials – along with regional employers – have identified as in-demand jobs. Worcester provides a good example in this regard. Under the leadership of then Principal Maureen Binienda, Worcester's South High petitioned the state to open a Chapter 74 program in diesel, engine technology and repair. This type of program is not currently being offered at Worcester Technical High School. The program at South has been a success with graduates working in well-paid jobs locally and/or attending college.

AVTE is working to require better outreach to students and parents at the middle school level, to help inform them of the educational and skills training opportunities. We hope to see the establishment of a deputy commissioner of Vocational/Technical and Chapter 74 programming within the Department of Elementary & Secondary Education. Additionally, we hope to change existing laws to prevent a single community from blocking a regional voke/tech's ability to expand and meet student enrollment demands.

We urge business leaders to contact their legislators about the need to increase voke/tech school funding. By doing so, we strengthen regional economies across Massachusetts. We encourage business community members, if they are part of an industry association, to get involved in advocacy for career and technical education.

Susan Mailman is chairwoman of Coghlin Electrical Contractors, Inc. in Worcester, and Timothy P. Murray is the CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce.

CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this column indicated AVTE was advocating changing existing laws to allow a single community to block voke/tech expansion. The organization wants to prevent such situations.

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