Students of Essex Tech attend the Alliance for Vocational Technical Education

Students of Essex Tech attend the Alliance for Vocational Technical Education meeting at the State House. Senior student Caroline DeGrappo of Ipswich from the Veterinary Technology program and junior student Jenna Tocco of Danvers from the Biotechnology program addressed the group below. Additionally, students from the Culinary and Design & Visual Communications program attended the meeting showcasing their talents and skills of their respective programs.



Business and Education Leaders Call for Increased Investment in Career and Technical Education

White Paper Outlines Five Ways To Improve Access and Opportunity

March 2, 2018 – Boston, MA – The Alliance for Vocational Technical Education (AVTE), a diverse coalition of public and private organizations working to strengthen career and technical education (CTE) in the Commonwealth, today published a white paper that offers a roadmap to expanding access to high-quality CTE programs to more students.

“Through these proposed short and long-term solutions, Massachusetts can offer career and technical education to the 80% of high school students who currently don’t have access,” stated Tim Murray, President and CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce.   “By expanding students’ access to CTE, the Commonwealth is making a critical investment in the future of our workforce.”

The paper was released at a well-attended event at the State House to highlight the ongoing success of CTE students in the Commonwealth and the policy recommendations that offer a strategic path forward.  

“Our white paper and policy recommendations are the result of synthesis and collaboration between regional vocational school administrators, comprehensive and academic school leaders, and the business community,” said Julie Hackett, Superintendent of Taunton Public Schools and Co-Chair of the Alliance. “It was an impressive effort – many different organizations, with various interests and points of view have put those aside and focused on the students. We want more students to be able to access high quality CTE programs and to have the opportunity to develop the technical and professional skills necessary to secure high paying jobs or enroll in post-secondary education.”

The Alliance’s white paper and policy recommendations outline five critical ways in which Massachusetts can work to improve CTE programs throughout the state: expanding access and equity, infrastructure investments, curriculum improvements, expansion of career readiness, and greater use of data/outcomes.   To see the full report and recommendations go to:

Formed in 2015, the Alliance is led by business, education and civic leaders across Massachusetts who want to prepare students with the necessary skills and competencies to succeed in today’s highly competitive labor market.  The Alliance focuses on innovative solutions to reduce the number of students on the waitlists for vocational schools and mobilize policy-makers to enact the changes needed to increase successful outcomes for additional students.

“We constantly hear about how employers cannot find enough high-quality talent. It has been a consistent message for a long time – employers need skilled labor. Our CTE programs are preparing our students with timely competencies and skills to fill these good-paying jobs,” said Kevin Farr, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Association of Vocational Administrators. “However, the capital infrastructure, financing mechanisms, and governance of CTE schools and programs has not expanded or changed to meet our workforce needs. The Commonwealth’s CTE programs are our most successful workforce development resource and our white paper and policy recommendations offer a proposal to build on our success.”

“Not only do students in CTE programs develop technical skills, they typically outperform traditional high school students academically – scoring higher on the MCAS and posting lower dropout rates,” said Sue Mailman, President and Owner of Coghlin Electrical Contractors. “CTE programs pair academic classes with hands-on skills training and this model keeps students actively engaged.  As a result, students secure good-paying jobs, possess strong academic, technical and professional skills, and are well prepared for employment in skills occupations or to enroll in post-secondary school.”

The Baker Administration and the Legislature’s $45 million investment in capital needs was a major step forward for CTE in Massachusetts. However, CTE only serves 20% of the high school population in the state and there are over 3,200 students on the waitlist. The Alliance believes that it is time to re-energize our commitment to this effective workforce development resource and enact innovative solutions that will expand access to high quality CTE programs throughout the Commonwealth.

“Here is the bottom line,” concluded Tim Murray, “career and technical education is vital to the current and future economic success of the Commonwealth. CTE programs prepare students with the technical and professional skills that employers desperately need right now.”

From Essex Technical High School

Two students were asked to speak on behalf of the Alliance for Vocational Technical Education at the State House on Friday, March 2, 2018. The students, both seniors who reside in Ipswich and Danvers respectively, provided the audience with insight into the impact career and technical education had on their lives in preparing them for high need jobs and college in the Commonwealth. Additionally, students in the Culinary Arts and Design & Visual programs were joined by students from Madison Park and South Shore Technical High Schools as they filmed and prepared refreshments for the event.

Caroline DeGrappo, from Ipswich, and Jenna Tocco, from Danvers, spoke alongside Lt. Governor Polito, Secretary of Education, James Peyser, and Treasurer, Deborah Goldberg in the Great Hall of Flags, to discuss the importance of career and technical education in the Commonwealth, and how to increase the ability to offer high quality programming.

Essex Technical High School offers 24 career and technical education programs and services 17 member communities. Students have the option to learn skills in traditional trade programming, STEM related occupations, and agricultural education. Servicing over 1400, our students become scientists, licensed electricians, chefs, and designers with significant contributions to the north shore economy.

Students Speak

Caroline DeGrappo, Veterinary Technology Senior, Ipswich, MA

Hello, my name is Caroline DeGrappo and I’m a senior in the Veterinary Science program. These past four years have given me the best head start one could ask for in terms of career success. The Veterinary Science CTE gave me the foundation I needed in order to be successful in the workplace. Through cooperative education at SRH Veterinary Services in Ipswich, I have been actively involved in everything from emergency c-sections in the field to limb amputations caused by pathogenic fractures. The background of education that our school has provided me with, in combination with the training and work experience I have received while on co-op, has equipped me with the knowledge and skills to help assist in such procedures, and be an effective member of the SRH veterinary team.

Outside of the classroom, I am in my second consecutive term serving as secretary for our FFA chapter, a youth leadership organization for students enrolled in agriculture education. FFA has allowed me to develop my potential for career success and grow leadership skills through monthly service projects and events like our Vet Science Career Development Event. Our vet science team placed first at the state level, silver nationally, and I was named a national gold individualist. Also through FFA, I have been enabled to conduct research. Last spring I housed 8 mice for a month on my dining room table, much to my mother’s dismay, to test the effects that creatine would have on the musculoskeletal systems of the mice.

As someone who has a love for learning, I make an effort to take advantage of all opportunities to further my education and better myself as a person. Essex Tech has been my greatest opportunity yet. As I graduate and move onto college, I will bring with me skillsets I would never have gained at an average high school. These past four years have had an immensely positive impact on my personal growth, leadership development, and have helped me prepare for career success. With a strong foundation, I look forward to my promising future.

Thank you.

Jenna Tocco, Biotechnology Junior, Danvers, MA

As a nontraditional high school student, Biotechnology CTE at Essex Technical High School has given me every opportunity to succeed by training on state-of-the-art equipment from experienced and knowledgeable career technical teachers. For four years, my teachers have prepared me to work in industry and have provided me with lab experience in many fields including Genetics, Microbiology, and Agricultural Biotechnology. My career technical area allowed me to perfect techniques and procedures in Biotechnology that traditional high school students would not be able to work on until college and in some cases not even until after college. Along with gaining extraordinary technical and research skills, Biotechnology has given me many opportunities outside of the classroom. The training I received throughout high school qualified me to be the perfect candidate for a high school intern at Harvard Life Science Outreach. Some of the skills that I will be required to perform are calculations and accurate solution preparation, aseptic technique when making solutions and pouring agar plates, and performing independent research projects. Without my lab experience and knowledge in the Biotechnology field, I would have never been considered for this internship. Biotechnology has been extremely effective in building my employability and technical skills for any career path that I choose to take. I am confident in my abilities and achievements in the Biotechnology field and I am thankful for the incredible experience that my vocational school offered me. I am excited to pursue my passion of biotechnology through my cooperative education career at Harvard University, my summer internship in a surgical training program at Boston Bioskills, and continue to study as a Biochemistry major at Penn State University in the fall.

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