Fitzpatrick is seen here on the Massachusetts State House’s Grand Staircase with (from left) Governor Charlie Baker, State Representative Joseph D. McKenna, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, and State Representative David K. Muradian, Jr.
A Workforce Skills Capital Grant of $407,517 will allow Blackstone Valley Tech to make state-of-the-art upgrades to several programs without increasing the school’s local-taxpayer-supported budget for fiscal year 2017 (FY17).
On Thursday, February 25, Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito announced Valley Tech as one of 35 high schools, community colleges, and vocational training providers selected by the Governor’s Workforce Skills Cabinet to receive a portion of $9.3 million aimed at connecting students and residents to economic opportunity.
“Workforce skills education and training plays an enormous role in economic and personal development by helping residents acquire the skills they need to connect with promising careers,” Governor Baker said. “These vocational-technical education equipment grants will help build stronger communities and a more competitive business environment that ensures more residents have the skills they need to succeed in and support the Commonwealth’s economic future.”
Superintendent-Director Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick commented on the opportune timing of the Workforce Skills Capital Grant Program award, which was announced as he and the Valley Tech School Committee developed a fiscal year 2017 budget that must address a significant cost increase in employee health benefits and pension obligations.
“The Commonwealth’s investment in Valley Tech allowed for the removal of capital equipment purchases from our proposed FY17 budget,” Fitzpatrick explained. “Acquisition of this state grant is one of several aggressive actions initiated to reach a modest 3 percent budgetary increase for the coming fiscal year.”
The $407,517 grant will help prepare Valley Tech’s students for the modern, high-skill workforce by providing training on specific pieces of equipment identified as “must-haves” by the school’s 400-plus business and industry advisors. The Manufacturing Technology program will be equipped with three CNC (computerized numerical control) lathes, one CNC milling machine, eight retrofit CNC packages to bring all of the program’s milling machines up to industry standards, nine high-end computers, and eight multi-process welding machines. Automotive Technology students will learn to calculate the power produced by engines and motors by utilizing a dynamometer, and students in Construction Technology will expand their industry-relevant skills by training on a new professional-grade sander. With the purchase of new software and curriculum, Valley Tech will train its Business Technology students for the growing field of medical coding and billing and potentially expand programming for adult learners.
According to Governor Baker’s office, the equipment grant program is a new initiative of the Governor’s Workforce Skills Cabinet, which seeks to align statewide education, workforce, and economic development strategies. Comprised of Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ronald Walker II, Education Secretary James Peyser, and Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash, the Cabinet streamlined the former Manufacturing Training Equipment grants and the former Vocational Opportunity Challenge grants into the new Workforce Skills Capital Grants Program.