TURNERS FALLS — Superintendent Richard Martin and Director of Career and Technical Education Matthew West are pleased to announce that the Franklin County Technical School hosted a career and college expo for upperclassmen recently. The event allowed students to meet with and learn from representatives from a variety of technical trade organizations, college recruiters and more.
The expo was open to all juniors and seniors at the school, which was an expansion of the school’s past expos which were open only to seniors. The school decided to expand the event in order to give more students the opportunity to consider what they wanted to do following graduation.
“In terms of learning about your options and being inspired for your future, junior year is such an important year for students and so it was important that we open the expo up to them as well,” said FCTS school counselor Annie McCarthy. “We view these types of fairs as part of a students’ overall education, so the entire junior class came out as a whole, even the students who have for the most part figured out what they want to do after they leave here. Even for those students, it’s important to hear what your options are.”
Vendors included all branches of the armed services, union representatives, area community colleges and four-year colleges, and state agencies.
“For a successful tech school, it’s all about giving students options and making sure they know where to go for support after graduation,” McCarthy said. “That is often overlooked in education, but we want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to set our students up for success.”
Emma Bayle, an admissions counselor at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, said she uses these types of college fairs as a primary tool for recruitment and has found technical high schools to be a great fit.
“Oftentimes tech school students will have a lot of professional experience before they even graduate, and they really know what they are looking for,” Bayle said. “And the ones who haven’t figured it out yet have a tremendous willingness to learn. These FCTS students showed a lot of interest and were so professional with their interactions. We definitely look forward to continuing this relationship with the school and returning here in the future.”
Many former students have returned to FCTS over the years to prepare the next wave of graduates. One such student is Melissa Leary, a Training Director for Springfield Electrical JATC/IBEW Local 7. A 2013 graduate of the school, Leary said she went directly into the electrical field following graduation.
“I went straight into working with Local 7 as an apprentice, and by 2020 I had begun my current role as Training Director,” she said. “The best experience a tech student — or any student for that matter — can have is speaking directly with those who do the job you are interested in. So much of what we do is hands-on, and through programs like the ones you get at FCTS you will graduate and immediately be fully licensed and able to support yourself. The school truly adopts the mindset of looking to the future, and it starts at expos like this. They want students to not only meet people in their respective fields, but learn from them and be able to network so they are set up to succeed right away.”
Leary said the school is “redefining what a tech school is” with its emphasis on connecting students to the real world.
“It’s not just about simply learning a trade,” she said. “It’s about producing the next leaders in your respective industry, and all the things that go along with that.”