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Nashoba Valley Technical High School got to strut its stuff for some pretty impressive visitors on the afternoon of Wednesday, Oct. 11.
Gov. Charlie Baker, Massachusetts Secretary of Education Jim Peyser and Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Rosalin Acosta toured the school’s newly renovated Engineering Academy to see firsthand the state-of-the-art equipment the school purchased with the $495,000 grant it received in 2016’s funding cycle of the state’s Workforce Skills Capital Grant program.
That sum, in addition to a $101,476 grant from the Massachusetts Life Science Center, bought several new pieces of equipment for Nashoba Tech’s Engineering Academy, including a pair of collaborative robotic arms from Boston-based Rethink Robotics Inc., and robotic equipment from FANUC.
The Workforce Skills Capital Grant program has been in effect for two years, and Nashoba Tech received a grant in both years. In 2015, it received $500,000 to expand and upgrade its Advanced Manufacturing program, which was formerly called Machine Tool Technology.
Baker, a strong proponent of vocational-technical education since taking office, and Nashoba Tech Superintendent Dr. Denise Pigeon cut a ceremonial ribbon (which was held up by the two robotic arms) to mark the reopening of the updated Engineering Academy.
“I’ve got to say, this is the first time I ever saw a ribbon held up like that,” Baker said.
He told about 100 people assembled in the Engineering Technology lab — mostly students, staff and School Committee members — that they should be proud of the school’s accomplishments in receiving grants two years in a row.
“You should remember that these were competitive procurements,” the governor said. “You didn’t win anything unless you submitted a competitive proposal that showed why the grant would be good for the school and the students. And there weren’t many that got two, so I’m happy to be here to see you toot your own horn.”
“We want to make sure we’re doing things to support organizations like yours,” he added, “and to support children in the commonwealth in building successful futures.”
After touring the Engineering Academy, the governor and secretaries then stayed at Nashoba Tech to announce the 2017 round of grants, which included 32 institutions receiving a total of $9.5 million.
Pigeon thanked Baker, Peyser and Acosta for taking the time to visit the school and see the results of the grant money the school has received, and she said the changes at the school are in keeping with this year’s school motto, “Technical Education Reimagined.”
Acosta expressed enthusiasm for the work Nashoba Tech is doing to educate students in the skills that employers need.
“I love what you’re doing here,” she said. “And I love that we are able to fill the needs of employers.”
State Sen. Eileen Donoghue, who represents much of Nashoba Tech’s district, including the town of Westford, echoed Acosta, saying that students in today’s technical high schools are the skilled employees of tomorrow.
Donoghue said a skilled workforce “really and truly is the future of the commonwealth of Massachusetts.”
“We have some of the most outstanding technical high schools in the country,” she added, before singling out Nashoba Tech, with its advances in engineering and advanced manufacturing, two of the most in-demand industries in the state.
“We all know the jobs of the future aren’t going to look like the jobs of today,” she said.