WESTFIELD – Westfield Technical Academy was awarded a Skills Capital Grant of $200,000, which will be split evenly between the school’s Allied Health and Culinary Arts career-technical programs for students in grades 9-12.
The Skills Capital Grant award was among $14.6 million announced by the Baker-Polito administration Feb. 24 to 54 educational institutions to update equipment and expand student enrollment in programs that provide career education.
“I am especially grateful to Governor Baker, Lieutenant Governor Polito, their administration, and the Workforce Skills Cabinet for their ongoing and demonstrated commitment to what can only be referred to as a renaissance of Career Technical Education in the Commonwealth,” said Westfield Tech Principal Joseph Langone.
“For Westfield Technical Academy in particular, this current round of Capital Skills funds will allow us to make some necessary–and long overdue–upgrades to our Allied Health and Culinary Arts Programs. These upgrades will assist us in equipping our students with skills that truly conform to current industry standards in both career clusters. In the world of Career Technical Education in Massachusetts, these are truly exciting times,” Langone added.
Allied Health Department Head Maureen Baillargeon said the program includes a Chapter 74 Health Assisting Program which certifies students in Certified Nurse Assistant, Home Health Aide, Paid-Feeding Assistant, and EKG Technician.
Baillargeon said the program also gives out many certifications including Red Cross Babysitter, American Heart Association (AHA) Basic Life Support for the Healthcare Provider in CPR/AED, AHA First Aid, FEMA Until Help Arrives, Stop the Bleed, OSHA 10 general industry-healthcare, AHA Blood Borne Pathogens and Alzheimer care.
She said the grant was used to purchase new hospital beds, new privacy curtains, a mock exam room, and new SPOT vital sign towers. Patient care mannequin, child mannequin with ECG simulator, a blood pressure arm simulator and bleeding control kits were also purchased, along with new EKG machines, a bladder scanner, anatomical models and transfer mechanical lifts.
‘We are busy moving stuff around the classroom, getting ready for the arrival of our new equipment,” Baillargeon said. “We are so grateful to Governor Baker for investing in our high school aged youth to prepare our next generation of workers, so they are better able to enter the world of work or continue on to higher education,” she said.
“It’s a great grant to help programs,” agreed Chef Philip Mucciarone, head of Culinary Arts. “We haven’t gotten anything new since I built the program in 1994. Five years before retirement, it’s great to see a facelift before I go,” he said.
Half of the Culinary Arts grant is going to two new state-of-the-art combination ovens that steam, bake and roast.
Mucciarone, whose program runs Tiger’s Pride restaurant at the school, said the combination ovens, which are computer generated, are being used at culinary schools and in the industry.
“This will increase our production without a doubt. Just with the ovens, we’re going from two sheet pans of food to 16 sheet pans,” Mucciarone said.
Other equipment purchased with the grant includes a 10-burner range with top salamander; four table top mixers, one large 30 quart mixer, one stationary 20 quart mixer, two baker scales, specialty items such as waffle and ice cream makers, and a new washer and dryer for kitchen linens.
Mucciarone said when they applied for the grant, according to state guidelines, they had to list the equipment they needed, and how it will be used to educate students.
He said the 55 students in the program, which is usually full, are excited to use the new equipment. Most of it should be installed by April vacation, when gas hookups will occur.
“It was really good to get this opportunity. The kids are all excited about it,” Mucciarone said.
“We are very fortunate to have received this grant to support our Allied Health and Culinary Arts Programs. These funds will help grow two programs that represent priority industries identified in the State’s Workforce Skills Cabinet Pioneer Valley Blueprint aimed at reducing the skills and supply gap moving forward. We are also thankful for the support of our application from the MassHire Hampden County Workforce Board,” said Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski.
Other area Skills Capital Grant awards include $150,000 to Chicopee High School for the Veterinary Technician program; $200,000 to the Lower Pioneer Valley Career & Technical Education Center for Machine Technology and Landscaping/Horticulture; $257,663 to Smith Vocational to modernize its Health Assisting program; and $250,000 to Springfield Technical Community College to double the size of its Metrology Lab and purchase new equipment for its Health Science degree program.
“Skills Capital Grants help preserve the Commonwealth’s talent pipeline by funding expanded enrollment and equipment upgrades at educational institutions to provide more students with in-demand skills sought by employers,” said Governor Charlie Baker in his announcement this week.