Giving students a pathway to a career, not just a job
A large portion of students from Fitchburg High School, located in Central Massachusetts, go into the workforce directly after graduating. To help these students, the school wanted to provide technical training to give them skills and exposure to careers. However, the breadth of offerings at a nearby vocational school was hindering Fitchburg High School from being able to provide Chapter 74 programs through its school.
Then, Former Governor Baker's administration announced new opportunities that Fitchburg High School could participate in: Innovation Pathways and the Skills Capital Grant Program. Led by Jeremy Roche, Principal of Fitchburg High School at the time, the school successfully became a designated Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Pathways school. Well-organized collaborative efforts went into the Innovation Pathways application, centered around a clear vision: to prepare kids, help local employers, and build the community.
Prepare students for careers and help the community
Around 40% of students at Fitchburg High School go directly into the workforce after graduating, and a high percentage of students are low-income or first-generation high school graduates. The administration and teachers at Fitchburg knew that students needed to get jobs after they finished high school. They also knew that manufacturing is a top job market in the region and that employers need hard-working, skilled employees.
If students were trained well enough to start working in the local manufacturing industry right after high school graduation, they would improve the city by eventually setting their roots, buying houses, and contributing to the local economy.
Educators, employers, and local government agencies knew they should work together to keep people in Fitchburg. They needed someone to unite the groups so that the public, private, and education sectors could collaborate around one vision that benefits everyone.
An Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Pathway supported by a network of partners
Fitchburg High School, led by Jeremy Roche, did a lot of groundwork to inform their application for the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Pathway by connecting with many organizations. AET Labs was one of the companies Jeremy reached out to after he heard we had helped other schools with their Innovation Pathways applications. We met with the team to provide insights into what is required for the grant, what other schools had done, and what types of equipment other schools with the Advanced Manufacturing Pathway have added to their labs. We also talked about the local industry and the companies’ manufacturing processes. From there, we created a recommended equipment list for an advanced manufacturing lab at Fitchburg High School. Fitchburg also collaborated with local employers, MassHire, DESE, Mount Wachusett Community College, and more.
In addition to the Innovation Pathways application, Fitchburg High School applied and was awarded a Massachusetts Skills Capital Grant, which provided funding to build out their advanced manufacturing lab. AET Labs supplied the equipment for the lab, including:
AET Labs also trained the teachers on the equipment and have continued to provide technical support to the program.
Since the Advanced Manufacturing Pathway launched, enrollment has grown each year. Students are successfully entering the local manufacturing workforce, thriving in their roles, getting promotions and raises, and staying in Fitchburg!
And Fitchburg High School continues to evolve and expand its Innovation Pathways. They hired a career counselor to manage collaborations with local employers, added internships to the program, and recently expanded to offer another Innovation Pathway.