HANOVER — Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and state Secretary of Education James Peyser toured electrical and machine engineering shops at South Shore Vo-Tech Thursday, May 12 to get a first-hand look at how state vocational grants are being used.
The school was one of 35 districts to receive a combined $9.2 million in Mass. Skills Capital Grants in February. SSVT received $231,419 of the grant money.
Polito and Peyser chatted with students working on final projects in an engineering class, as well as those at work on precision manufacturing machines and 3-D printers.
Alex McPherson of Hanson, for example, was working to create injection molds for the electronics department designed by the drafting shop. Dylan Key, also of Hanson, explained 3-D printing in the electrical engineering shop.
“It prints in polymer, so you can print in multiple types of materials,” Key said, passing around examples. “This shows how precise that can be.”
Polito and Peyser were impressed with what they saw.
“For an employer that has machines like this in their industry, having people with the skills he just described is very valuable,” Polito said after McPherson’s demonstration.
“There are employers that are working directly with the school and the students through co-ops and through shared work spaces — and making sure they have jobs available to these students when they graduate,” she said after the tour. “This is truly a workforce development intiative. It’s something that’s working.”
Joined by several state representatives from SSVT’s eight sending towns — including state Rep. Josh Cutler, D-Duxbury, whose district includes Hanson — as well as municipal officials, Polito and Peyser were guided by SSVT officials.
“I was very impressed with the level of skill and the equipment that they used, and how many high-performance tasks they can do with them,” said Whitman Town Administrator Frank Lynam. “It’s really an impressive place.”
Officials had the chance to speak with students in the three shops before taking part in a round table discussion in the school’s Brass Lantern Restaurant.
“They know that we’ve been the recipient of several competitive grants for engineering and manufacturing programs,” said Superintendent-Director Dr. Thomas Hickey about the visit Polito and Peyser requested. “The purpose of today’s visit is to give them a chance to see where engineering and manufacturing are thriving in the school.”
The programs toured have benefited from both state grants as well as Mass. Life Sciences grants.
“There’s no replacement for seeing first-hand how the kids are using the equipment to advance their skills,” Polito said, noting the grants also help students seeking to advance to college engineering programs.
“There are thousands of young people who are on waiting lists to get into programs like this one,” Peyser agreed. “By investing in the equipment that is necessary to run these programs, we’re not only improving the quality of the programs themselves, bringing them into line with current industry standards, but we’re also increasingly providing access to more and more students.”
After the tour, Polito noted that she and Gov. Charlie Baker have placed a high value on vocational education, terming it a “real gem” within the K-12 public school system. Business leaders also stress to them the importance of trained employees, she said.
“We have a skills gap here in Massachusetts and in order to close that skills gap we need to ramp up the vo-tech experience for more kids,” Polito said. “One of the ways we’re doing that is through the vo-tech equipment grants.”
Hickey has said SSVT’s grant is being used to purchase Cyber Security training equipment for computer information technology, a new surface grinder for precision machine technology and much more.
An Economic Development Bill also aims to provide $75 million more toward equipment purchases by the state’s vocational schools, according to Polito. Hickey, meanwhile, is also hoping the state’s commitment extends to building funds as another way to bring in the students on the waiting lists Peyser mention.
“[The tour] also gives me the opportunity to dialog on what some of the needs are for vocational education at South Shore,” Hickey said, gesturing toward 15-year-old modular classrooms visible through the window of the school library. “I’m thrilled that the Baker administration is going to support vocational tools in the area of equipment, but the time will come where we’re going to need support for building and infrastructure.”
The original portion of the SSVT building was constructed in 1962.