HANOVER — So, how did you spend your summer vacation?
For 140 middle school students who said summer school, it wasn’t all remedial work. In fact, for students in the eight member towns of the South Shore Tech district, it was quite the opposite.
For the second year, students in grades six to eight attending SST’s Vocational Summer Discovery program, the focus was squarely on the future.
Vocational Director Keith Boyle said the program was started as a way to recruit and reach out to younger students in an effort to make them aware of what the school offers — and for the second year in a row it also sold out.
A lot of the repeat students used it as an opportunity to explore a different program this year, he said, adding that, while it is not designed to give a student a “leg up” in the freshman exploratory weeks it gives them a better idea what some different programs at the school offers.
“We start with our member towns, but we have expanded to out-of-district based off available seats,” he said. “This year, we had quite a successful program — we offered eight vocational trades.”
The only four of the 12 trades taught at the school that were not included in the summer program were allied health, manufacturing, cosmetology and electrical. Students did explore automotive, computer information technology, culinary arts, design/visual communications, horticulture/landscape construction, HVAC/refrigeration and metal fabrication/welding.
“I don’t think they knew what they wanted to do [as a high school course of study], but I think there was interest,” Boyle said. “I think it was an exploration to match up with their hobby or maybe their dad is an electrician and it was a way to get the student kind of involved in the trade to see, ‘Is this what I want to do?’”
Each day involved a project they could take home, according to Boyle.
For students who love to cook, for example, they had a week where could work in a commercial kitchen with chefs. They cook and they bring food home with them every day.
While it doesn’t drive the schools curriculum, it does incorporate the exploratory portion of the school’s traditional freshman year program, tailored for younger students.
“But they all did small projects that they could take home,” Boyle said. The carpentry program had campers making small birdhouses for their backyards, automotive program made small racecars.
“The goal of the program was, the students are building something,” he said. “The students are using their hands. They might be using some minor tools with supervision, but they’re taking home a project at the end to show their parents and to show folks that, ‘This is what I built, his is what I made.’”
In a small way, it can also inform the school about what incoming students may want to study.
Automotive, for example is a field that is changing rapidly as car makers begin moving to EVs — especially in light of a California’s recent decision to ban the sale of gasoline-powered cars by 2035.
“That will come to fruition in a lot of vocational schools that have gone through renovations and have built their automotive program to house EV shops,” said Boyle. “A lot of that is because the power needs just means that this building might not have the capacity for it. If we renovated the building or added the capacity, now’s the time to put in the EV, electrical — all those components.”
SST is one of the schools now working with the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) on a renovation and expansion plan, in which the MSBA has asked the school to outline possible future program changes or offerings.
Between the electronic and battery components of EVs, that could also mean cross-instruction between automotive, electronics, IT and science programs.
Grants are also helping drive what’s coming ahead at the school Boyle said. A $500,000 Mass. Skills Capital Grant will be used to purchase industry-standard equipment for the HVAC and advanced manufacturing programs.
“Those dollars will specifically go toward new stat-of-the-art equipment, where we will replace or purchase new equipment based off the frameworks so our students are training and gaining experience on the high-tech equipment to make them successful in the industry once they leave here,” he said.
That equipment includes lathes, milling machines, boilers, tankless water heaters, home energy trainers and more.
Another grant involves the Commonwealth Corporation, in the form of a $640,000 Career Technical Initiative Grant to launch adult evening after school programs.
“We’re kind of changing our building from being a 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and sports to a 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. school and then 3:30 to 8:30 p.m. adult education facility,” Boyle said. “They will go through a 250-hour automotive course with the goal being [for example] to be employed in the industry.”
The career changing programs in automotive, carpentry, manufacturing and HVAC, among others will be aimed a career-changing for under- and unemployed adults and veterans.
“Not every program we offer here could be offered in that specific program at night,” he said. “But that specific program is a no-cost program.”
A typical adult night school course for other people looking to upgrade skills or change careers while employed carries a tuition cost.