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One day in the very near future, high-school students will populate Nashoba Valley Technical High School during the day, as they have for nearly half a century, and adults looking to learn, or become even more proficient, at a particular skill, will inhabit the school’s classrooms at night.
That’s the vision that Gov. Charlie Baker and his administration have for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: Schools becoming conduits through which companies — and, in particular, those that deal with manufacturing, health care and construction — can fill their workforce needs without having to provide extensive training.
It’s that effort at both the state and local level that lured Jobee O’Sullivan back to Nashoba Tech.
O’Sullivan was the school’s director of guidance until 2013 when she left for a similar job at another school. But when she saw that Nashoba Tech is taking an active role in the Baker administration’s attempts to better prepare students to meet the needs of businesses, she knew it was the direction in which she wanted her career to turn.
Since returning to Nashoba Tech as director of postsecondary, continuing and community education, O’Sullivan has been hard at work preparing the school to be able to participate in Chapter 74 vocational/technical Postsecondary programs that are approved to run at night.
“We’ll basically be offering education to different age groups in multiple shifts,” O’Sullivan said.
This program is different from two other programs Nashoba Tech offers — Nashoba @ Night and its Postgraduate program. Nashoba @ Night is a community-education program that allows adults to take various classes — mainly self-help, culinary, sports or health care — that are meant to provide new skills for adults at a nominal cost. The Postgraduate program allows recent high-school graduates from Nashoba Tech’s eight-town district to participate in any of the school’s 20 technical programs during the day with the student population at no charge.
The new Postsecondary program would have to be sanctioned by the state as well as an independent accreditation agency to train adults to enter the workforce in positions that will be plentiful in the next decade and beyond.
“This is a statewide push for technical education to look at the labor force needs across the commonwealth and figure out how to meet those demands,” O’Sullivan said.
The state recognizes that while for many high-school students, attaining a bachelor’s degree and beyond is the goal, the fact is that the state’s labor force will be in drastic need of certain types of workers who are ready to fill positions immediately.
To tackle the dilemma of how best to respond to the labor force’s needs, the state has been divided into several different regions, or blueprints. Nashoba Tech falls into three of those blueprints — Northeast, Central and Greater Boston.
O’Sullivan remains in touch with the chambers of commerce, career centers and workforce panels in all three of those blueprints, stretching from suburban Boston to Fitchburg.
Each blueprint has determined the top three workforce needs for the immediate future. Advanced manufacturing and health care are in the top three of two of the blueprints within which Nashoba Tech sits, while those two plus construction and trade-oriented fields are the top three in the third blueprint.
O’Sullivan is currently working on Nashoba Tech’s application for approval to participate in the Postsecondary program, “showing we have worked with local workforce development boards and local career centers and chambers of commerce to see what is needed in terms of the workforce in this region.”
Nashoba Tech has an edge in that it already offers technical programs in Advanced Manufacturing, several health-related areas and various construction fields.
“Nashoba Tech is really designed to better meet the workforce demands in the state,” O’Sullivan said.
When Nashoba Tech’s application is approved, perhaps as soon as January for classes in Advanced Manufacturing, it can began to offer night classes.
Of course, there will be a cost to the Postsecondary programs, and O’Sullivan and the Nashoba Tech administration are also working to make the school eligible to offer financial aid and federal loans.
“Once accredited, we can offer financial aid through PELL Grants or any other type of financial aid that is offered by colleges,” O’Sullivan said. “We really need to be able to offer that for the program to be a success.”