The Taconic High School Educational Needs Study has recommended that some of the vocational programs at the new Taconic be eliminated, pointing to low enrollment and poor job placement of the graduates as well as the high cost of building shops and equipping them. Does eliminating the welding and sheet metal program at Taconic make sense? I believe that vocational education is a Berkshire County issue not a Pittsfield issue.
Aren’t the other districts in the county facing similar problems? It does not make sense for the other school districts to build the same shop in four or five schools to teach, for example, welding to 10 to 12 students when a county approach could teach all the students in the county for much less cost.
When the co-op program at Taconic began, the qualifying students in the shop programs could go to related jobs where they would work at the trade they were learning. They would be in school for one week and then work the field the next week giving them a opportunity to see what it’s like in a real work environment. For the last several years the co-op program has been changed to four hours per day in shop or co-op and four hours in academics. This does not work. For employers, it’s too disruptive and for the students it presents transportation issues. They get dirty at work and have to go back to school; they just get set up for work and have to clean up. The co-op experience was an asset for the shop programs, but now it’s disruptive and discourages participation.
Some shop programs have become dumping grounds for unmotivated and disruptive students and this ruins the shop experience for those who are there to learn. This practice must be stopped and only interested and qualified students should be in the shops.
There are local examples of successful vocational programs -- McCann Tech and Smith Vocational & Agricultural. I think we are missing an opportunity if we don’t create a first class Taconic vocational program that serves our local students and in the process provides quality future employees to local businesses.
The writer is co-owner of Pariseau Heating & Cooling.