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Admissions into vocational-technical high schools are in high demand, but not enough seats available

Ananda Brooks, left, works on an experiment in Bio Tech class at Antioch High School in Antioch, California, in this file photo from 2016.
Ben Margot
/
AP
Ananda Brooks, left, works on an experiment in Bio Tech class at Antioch High School in Antioch, California, in this file photo from 2016.

Vocational education, a training model that teaches students how to be proficient in a skill or trade, is in high demand right now. But there are currently not enough seats to meet the need in Massachusetts, according to the Pioneer Institute and the Massachusetts Association of Vocational Administrators.

David Ferriera, a longtime vocational school teacher and administrator, said the state needs to expand the capacity of vocational schools. But he also urged districts to offer vocational programs in traditional high schools — to get more kids thinking about all their options.

"We have kids coming out of comprehensive high schools — very, very intelligent students. You ask them, ‘What do you want to do after graduation?’ And the answer always is, ‘I'm going to college.’ 'Oh, and what are you going to study?' ‘I don't know, I'll find out when I get there.’ [That’s a] pretty expensive way of doing career education," Ferriera said.

Ted Noonan runs Noonan Energy Corporation, an energy business in western Massachusetts. He said the company employs many students from vocational schools — from trained HVAC technicians to plumbers and electricians.

“What the schools can do is maybe form more of a partnership [and] work more collaboratively together with companies to talk to kids earlier on in school and high school, giving kids a multitude of options on how to explore a potential career. I think [that] is so important,” Noonan said.

Ferriera said there are vocational-technical programs that could fit within a traditional high school budget and wants to work with the state Board of Education to get that rolling.

Nirvani Williams covers socioeconomic disparities for New England Public Media, joining the news team in June 2021 through Report for America.
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