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Community Leaders Address Skills Shortage

  By Jack Healy, Director, Manufacturing Advancement Center, [email protected]

  The lack of a cohesive and sustained US technical training system has been the bane of the manufacturing community for many years. Most manufacturers have survived by hiring skills from other enterprises that have closed, or by playing "good neighbor" and pirating such skills from other manufacturers in their communities. For many years, manufacturers across the country have taken no responsibility for what has now become an acute skills problem, one that shows no signs of abating. In fact, the US Bureau of Labor projects that by 2010, the number of unskilled worker posts will reach 5.3 million, increasing to an unimaginable 14 million by 2015.

All of this makes the scheduled Fall 2006 opening of the new Worcester Vocational High School’s state-of-the-art, 400,000 square foot building such an extraordinary event and a valued asset to the region. In addition to the opening of the school, there is another very unusual event associated with the school, one that promises to make this vocational school the most unique in the country.

When the project began, a single manufacturer, Ted Coghlin, Chairman of Coghlin Electric, saw the new school as the ultimate opportunity to provide vocational education that is powered by the latest technology. On his own time, Ted went to work soliciting approximately $3 million in private donations from the local business community. Matched with $27 million from the state of Massachusetts, these monies will be used to outfit the school with the latest technologies and equipment for the four academies. The Alden Design and Engineering Academy will house 16 various manufacturing design and engineering programs.

Thanks to the leadership shown by Ted Coghlin, we now have a direct answer to the skills shortage issue. There is a waiting list of over 600 students anxious to enroll in the technical programs of this new school.

Another leader has stepped up to the plate, showing exceptional support for this, the first vocational school to be built in the state in 25 years. Dr. Steven Willand, Executive Director of the Central Mass Regional Employment Board, has announced the establishment of a Skills Learning Center for Work Force Development to operate in the new school. The Skills Center will serve all of Central Massachusetts’ unemployed, underemployed, and career changing citizens, helping them obtain the best training in any critical industry, including obtaining certificates and state licenses.

In addition to the Skills Center, the Central Mass Regional Employment Board intends to provide services to an adult population throughout the 37 communities that make up the region. The vocational school will be open for an incredible 16 hours per day, housing 1,500 day students in technical vocational education. It will also serve an after hours population of 3,000 clients in over 100 classrooms and 24 learning centers that will all function to meet the community’s training needs.

Central Mass is lucky to have leaders like Ted Coghlin and Dr. Steven Willand. Other communities should be so lucky.


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