On Thursday, March 5, Cape Cod Regional Technical High School in Harwich will host its second annual Employment Skills Fair. Last year representatives from more than 40 local businesses met with students at the school. This year, fair organizers expect to draw a similar group.
According to John Ganss, one of three faculty members on the Employment Skills Fair committee, it is estimated that of the 650 students who will attend the fair this week, 150 will either find employment at the fair, or later through a contact made at the fair. Some of the companies that will be represented on Thursday include Americorps, Cape Associates, Lockheed Martin, Red Jacket Resorts and St. Aubin's Nursery.
The committee has adopted "Cape Cod Tech works" as an unofficial motto. "It has a double meaning, of course," Ganss said. "Employers know that our kids are work-ready--not just in terms of technical skills, but in work ethic and attitude. The school also 'works' in the sense that our students are actually getting employable skills in an authentic setting due to our technical model."
Cape Cod Tech offers seventeen different technical programs ranging from auto collision to health technology, graphic arts and engineering. Ganss said the most interested employers currently represent the health technologies, horticulture/landscaping, marine service technology, culinary arts and engineering trades. Ganss called the new engineering program "fledgling, but growing" and expects to see growth in that area.
Student interest in health technologies has grown, according to Ganss, prompting Cape Cod Tech to expand student enrollment and bring on new staff. Interest in the building trades has remained strong as well.
According to a recent Harvard University study on technical training in the United States, the model in Massachusetts was rated number one. In fact, Harvard University's Pathways to Prosperity Report points out it has been dubbed "the Cadillac of CTE (career and technical education)". In an article in September, the Boston Globe reported on the growing skills gap in the state. A Northeastern University School of Law study found that many students in Massachusetts have been wait-listed at vocational-technical schools as jobs go unfilled and unemployment rates remain high. Don Walsh, a former NSTAR exec told the Globe, "The biggest problem manufacturers have is running out of workers."
Last week, Governor Charlie Baker signed an executive order creating a Workforce Skills Cabinet to address the growing skills gap in Massachusetts. "The different regions that make up Massachusetts will require dynamic strategies to address the workforce skills gap, but by increasing our communication and coordination, we can prepare individuals across the Commonwealth for the family-sustaining jobs of the future," said Governor Baker.
According to Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Ron Walker, who will chair the new cabinet, the goal will be to "better connect business to the entire workforce development system which includes workforce investment boards, career centers, community colleges and vo-tech schools."
Cape Cod Regional Technical school already seems to be taking a step in that direction.