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Vocational Schools Offer Adults ‘A Blueprint For Success’

Published Thursday, January 20, 2022
by Brion O'Connor/The Boston Globe
Vocational Schools Offer Adults ‘A Blueprint For Success’

(BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS) - One evening in early December, at the Essex North Shore Agricultural and Technical School in Danvers, Carpentry Instructor Brian Borders inspected the sheds being built by Klajdi Karaj and Adam Aylward.

Several doors down, HVAC Instructor David Melanson pointed to a schematic drawing and quizzed students Jared Toppi and Brody Monkiewicz about the pathway of an electric current.

As they pondered their response, Automotive Instructor Louis Beckwith, at the opposite end of Essex Tech’s sprawling campus, had a trio of young adults - Aden Cotto, Savanny Kent and Zahira Roldon - inspecting the brakes of a BMW X5 sports utility vehicle.

These carpentry, HVAC, and automotive classes were just three of Essex Tech’s newest Nighthawks Adult Learning Programs, underwritten by the State of Massachusetts’ Career Technical Initiative (CTI) Program.

The classes include Construction and Carpentry, HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning), Automotive, Plumbing, CNC (Computer Numerical Control) Machining, Welding and Metal Fabrication, and Electro Mechanical Assembly.

Unlike traditional night courses, which run between $400 and $600, the CTI courses are offered at little to no cost to participants at schools throughout the region.

“We’re passionate about vocational education and see the opportunity that it can provide for individuals, their families, companies and within our communities,” said Bonnie Carr, who serves as the Director of Workforce Development at Essex Tech. “We’re happy to have the facility to do it and resources for the opportunities to continue.”

The CTI Program, said Heidi Riccio, Essex Tech’s Superintendent, is an extension of the school’s mission as a resource, providing a foundation for a career in the Trades, while addressing a workforce need.

Carr agreed: “The aging workforce in these fields is creating a gap that is ripe for the filling.”

How old is that workforce?

Essex Tech Plumbing Instructor Karl Jacobson said the average age of a Master Plumber in Massachusetts, for example, is 57.

“There’s a huge need (for more experienced Plumbers),” Jacobson said.

“That’s what this course is all about - showing [students] what kind of work they’re going to do, what kind of wages they’re going to make, what their day-to-day life is going to be like, before they actually go get a job,” he said.

The courses are short (13-to-15 weeks), but intense (16 hours a week, evenings and Saturdays).

Previous experience isn’t necessary (Riccio said one trade student had a doctorate degree), and there are no set age limits.

Since the students are older, said Jacobson: “They’re more serious.  They’re out of school, they’re trying to support their family or themselves.  I think they understand the opportunities that they have a little bit better.”

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