PITTSFIELD -- During a visit to Pittsfield High School on Thursday, Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Murray highlighted the importance of vocational and technical education and promised continued support for those programs from the Gov. Deval Patrick administration.
Murray first met with city school and municipal officials, students and members of the Berkshire STEM (Science Technology Engin-eering Math) Pipeline Network initiatives, which receive state funding. He then toured technical education classrooms and talked with teachers and students.
Mark Eddy, president of the senior class at PHS, who intends to study chemical engineering in college, said interest in technical and vocational education is high at the school, and the lieutenant governor's visit should provide another boost.
Students now believe "they'll be able to move directly into the work force" after high school, college or a four-year institution, Eddy said, and that reflects a new emphasis on technical education and upgraded equipment for programs like electronics.
Principal Tracey Benson also noted an increased interest among students in technical education and said the next step will be for the city to determine final details for a proposed building project to replace Taconic High School and upgrade technical and vocational programs.
A revised vocational education format is expected to be reviewed by the School Committee next week.
Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi asked Murray for help in determining what will be required to move the eight-year rebuilding effort -- expected to receive 78 percent state funding -- toward approval by the state.
While not blaming the administration for delays, the mayor said after the visit that the process has taken "far too long," and he is hoping for greater clarity from the state on what the city must do to move the project toward the building phase.
Referring to his membership in the National Lieutenant Governors Association, Murray said that Massachusetts "hasn't always been as nimble" as other states in creating effective or currently needed programs in technical or vocational education.
"We've got to change that," he said.
Murray said he was impressed, however, by "what we've been doing collectively."
Those efforts locally include the Berkshire STEM Pipeline Network, part of a state program seeking to foster connections among education, businesses and organizations such as the Berkshire Compact for Education for the improvement of technical education.
State funds have been made available for projects, such as the annual STEM Career Fair in the county, which drew more than 400 students and 32 employer exhibitors to Berkshire Community College on Nov. 16.
Murray also toured the General Dynamics facility and visited Soldier on West Housatonic Street to discuss veterans benefits available through the state and described on the informational website, MassVetsAdvisor.org.