DANVERS — Gov. Charlie Baker visited Essex North Shore Agricultural and Technical School on Thursday to announce that the school was one of 10 vocational technical high schools in the state to receive grants as part of his administration's Career Technical Initiative.

Baker said the money will go toward several training and skill-building programs in construction, trades and manufacturing. The goal, according to a statement from the administration, is to help close skills gaps and meet the needs of businesses statewide. 

In all, $2.1 million was awarded to the schools, which included $375,000 to Greater Lawrence Technical School and $90,000 for Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School.

Essex Tech received $540,000, which will help pay for training and job placement services for unemployed and underemployed people in several trades, including welding, automotive services, HVAC, plumbing and construction. Several local businesses are partnering with the school on these efforts. Among them: Cranney Home Services in Danvers, Kelley Automotive Group, Mini of Peabody and Groom Construction of Salem. 

Heidi Riccio, the superintendent of Essex Tech, said the money will greatly benefit the school's career-training programs.

“We thank Governor Baker and his cabinet for this essential funding to change the trajectory of a person's life,” she said.

Baker and other members of his administration spoke extensively about the importance of skilled workers in a post-pandemic world. He said the Career Technical Initiative aims to train 20,000 people in skilled trades over the next four years.  

“I think in many respects, this is one of the most important things we're going to need to do as we all get back to so-called normal,” Baker said. “That is, find ways to make sure that people have the skills that they need to succeed in a 21st century economy.”

Baker said like the rest of the country, Massachusetts will face several workforce challenges over the next few years because of both the pandemic and a large percentage of the population retiring.

“But the skilled trades are definitely growing, and we'll need more skilled workers in the coming years who have the skills to service our economy and to service our companies who service our communities,” Baker said. “And these are huge opportunities for people to get a job on which they can build a life and make a living with. Our vocational schools played a key role in connecting students to these career pathways.”

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said the administration considered investment in vocational training to be a priority before the pandemic.

“We were hearing from industry leaders and employers everywhere, ‘We just need more people with skills to fill the jobs that we have,’” she said. “And so when you're graduating students here, you're graduating students with abilities to work together and problem solve in addition to the expertise in a particular subject that earns them a license or credential or certificate.”

Baker said the grants were awarded as part of a $4 million line item in the fiscal 2021 budget. The 2022 budget, he said, proposes $17 million toward the initiative.

“Obviously, more than four,” he said, “so that we can do even more with this program to support our students, our workers and our employers and to power economic recovery.”

The administration said roughly $1,480,000 in fiscal 2021 funds remains available for vocational technical school.

Grant recipients

Greater Lawrence Technical School, $375,000

Greater Lowell Technical HS, $100,000

Madison Park Technical Vocational High School, $240,000

Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical School District, $100,000

Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School, $125,000

Nashoba Valley Technical High School, $300,000

Southeastern Regional School District, $150,000

Greater Fall River Vocational School District, $100,000

Essex North Shore Agricultural and Technical School, $540,000

Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School, $90,000

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