I was recently invited to join the Advisory Committee for the Newton North High School Carpentry Technology program and of course accepted. It’s is time to stop complaining about the lack of good young talent in the trades and try to do something about it.
Newton HS has a wonderful vocational education department. The Carpentry Program teacher, Garrett Tingle, is dynamic and not only involved with his students but teaches continuing education for adults as well. The shop itself is huge, modern and wonderful and Garrett stresses quality and pride in craftsmanship to all of his students.
The issue that Garrett brought to the Advisory Committee was a frustration that he and his students share, and probably what most voc-tech students and teachers share. The emphasis on getting in a “good college” doesn’t allow enough time in the schedule for students whose passion is voc-tech. This was the prevalent theme in all of the voc-tech class offerings.
Newton North HS is an above-average HS. Its students get a wonderful education and get into great colleges. They have mandatory classes such as English, math, foreign language, etc—as well they should. The problem starts when the guidance department push students to take more than one year of foreign language or other classes that crowd out voc-tech classes, because that’s what “colleges are looking for”. The guidance department has no idea what schools with voc-tech or construction programs, such as the UMASS Building and Construction Technology program, are looking for. Do those schools care if the student has taken 2-3 years of French or would they rather see a drafting or engineering class on the student’s resume?
We strategized and decided to “manage up” the process aiming at educating the guidance department and parents on what is needed to get into a college and still allow the students to follow their passions. We hope to identify appropriate colleges and have them present what they are looking for. The carpentry teacher was grateful for the committee’s input and energized to start the process. He will also involve his students in the project.
To be continued…