Palmer, MA (June 27, 2017) — For more than 40 years, Pathfinder Regional Vocational Technical High School has provided quality technical and academic education in Massachusetts. The school’s Machine Technology-Advanced Manufacturing Program is part of the Massachusetts initiative, “Amp It Up,” created to encourage students to explore careers in advanced manufacturing.
The students learn advanced manufacturing in a high-tech environment using state-of-the-art machines including full-size machining centers, turning centers, CNC and manual machines, computers and robots.
Instead of offering dark shops filled with woodworking and dusty saws, Pathfinder Regional Vocational Technical High School now offers full of state-of-the art machines and computers that teach students code, programming and design skills.
Al Putnam, the school’s Machine Technology Department Head has been instrumental in expanding the program and explains that the shop now has a waiting list.
With vocational graduates expected to earn an average starting salary of $45,000, the program is a huge draw with students.
Pathfinder Regional Vocational Technical High School was recently featured on NBC’s “Today Show” in a segment about the school and its machine technology-advanced manufacturing program called “Teens enter vocational school, come out with jobs, no debt.”
With fundraising efforts within the community, local machine shops, and volunteers, the program has filled the school with up-to-date machines. According to Putnam, the program currently has approximately 50 pieces, including a mix of manual and CNC machines.
“Over the years we have replaced much of the original old-style machinery from the 1970’s, which was mostly government surplus. We have replaced with up-to-date equipment in which our students are able to train for their future careers,” Putnam said.
With machine shop enrollment is up substantially. School administrators credit Governor Deval Patricks’s recent prediction of 100,000 new manufacturing jobs, the largest growth of any sector, in Massachusetts in the next ten years. Many of those new jobs will be in biotechnology and involve creating medical components.
According to Pathfinder’s Principal, Mary Jane Rickson, “The machine shops are clamoring for people right now. They can’t expand because they don’t have any highly skilled people.”
The program has an extremely high co-op placement. In their junior year of the program, the students work in their field and earn an hourly pay.
The school is also reaching out to younger students, bringing interest in the Machine Technology-Advanced Manufacturing Program to elementary aged students.
“We offer summer camps for 5th through 8th graders. Our recruiting efforts begin early and are showing results,” said Putnam.
“It’s really interesting to see the little kids have a positive experience in the machine shop,” Putnam added.
One of the main fundraisers for the Machine Technology-Advanced Manufacturing is their annual Poker Run/Motorcycle Rally. In its seventh year, the event brings together many of the former students to raise funds for the program. This year, over 75 attendees participated in the 90 mile ride.
“The Poker Run is a great way to get the students excited about their industry. It is also important that they see many shop owners, managers, machinists, programmer, supervisors, process engineers and Machine Tool Builders ‘giving back’ to the industry where they can make a good living,” said Mark Perreault, Regional Manager for Matsuura Machinery USA.
Perreault, who serves on the Machine Technology Program’s Advisory Board, participates each year in the fundraiser.
“The money we raise is to equip this regional public school program with machines and technology to better prepare students to enter our field,” Perreault concluded.