Career technology education sees rebirth

NASHUA – The idea that the only option high school students have for the future is attending a college for four years straight is beginning to become a thing of the past with more and more career technology education programs on the rise.

Students at both of Nashua’s high schools, North and South, are given the opportunity to enroll in the Career Technology Education program, which offers 19 individual fields, which includes biotechnology, culinary, cosmetology, computer-aided drafting & design and more.

Amanda Bastini, director of the Nashua Technology Center North, touched upon the success of the program.

“Ninety percent who finish CTE programs graduate from high school. What CTE is preparing kids for is either college or a career,” Bastoni said, and she explained that there has been a shift in society. “There is the idea that kids have to go to a four-year college straight after high school and, as a nation, we are realizing it is a fallacy. Lots of kids don’t finish college and still have huge debt.”

Bastoni said CTE programs recognize the need to help kids prepare for careers that may not come out of a college, such as plumbing and electrician careers.

CTE programs are also beneficial because they give students the chance to explore hands-on options. Bastoni said students gain real-world skills from these programs and they get to make the most out of their high school experience.

Bastoni hopes to reintroduce CTE to the community, especially for families who aren’t familiar with the program. “There are still so many parents out there who don’t realize this option is here,” Bastoni said.

The CTE programs in both high schools are based out of the Nashua Technology Center, which one of the largest CTE centers in the state, Bastoni said. CTE is funded through the federal Perkins Grant. Bastoni said the funds go towards a numerous amount of resources.

“We want kids to be prepared to work for jobs in the future so we need to make sure we work with updated equipment. Funds go to training teachers because most come from industries and need to get training on classroom management,” Bastoni said. The goal is to have the grant money increase access and excellence in the CTE program.

Student have a lot to gain, depending on what programs they become apart of. Students can come out of school with their license to be a nursing assistant, cosmetology students earn 360 hours towards their license, as do electricians who gain 180 hours of experience in their courses.

Bastoni said students can also participate in their program called Running Start, which gives them opportunities to take STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic) college courses for free at Rivier University, Nashua Community College and Southern New Hampshire University.

Along similar lines as Bastoni, Michael McQuilkin, director of Nashua Technology Center South said he thinks too often kids are being told that attending a four-year college is their only option.

“We are in need of specialties,” McQuilkin said. “We also do know that there is a higher percentage of CTE students who do better in school, because they have a vision of their future. Being able to take CTE classes in high school allows them to explore various options.”

McQuilkin also works to bring information to students in all three middle schools in Nashua, to give them the opportunity to see what will be available to them in the future and if they are interested in pursuing the programs.

McQuilkin said all the different programs offer so many different pathways to success.

“I really feel like every student should be afforded the opportunity to understand that we have all these programs out there,” McQuilkin said.

Grace Pecci can be reached at 594-1243 or gpecci@nashuatelegraph.com.