By Kevin P. O'Connor
Herald News Staff Reporter
FALL RIVER — Diman has an army of graduates at work in Massachusetts.
They helped pave the way for vocational education leaders to make a pitch for more money during a meeting with Governor Charlie Baker Wednesday.
Baker completed a tour of the SouthCoast Wednesday by meeting with a dozen vocational technical superintendents on the campus of the Greater New Bedford Voc-Tech.
"I don't remember a meeting like this before, and I've been around for a while," said Thomas Aubin, superintendent of the Diman Regional Vocational Technical High School.
"He spent a good deal of time and listened to our concerns," Aubin said. "The governor understands the importance of technical education."
Diman graduates played a part in helping him reach that understanding, Aubin added.
"The governor told me he has met a lot of Diman grads working in industry around the state," Aubin said. Several of them stressed the importance of the training and education they got at Diman, Aubin said.
Vocational education is changing, just to keep up with the marketplace, Aubin said. Students have to learn work skills to practice a trade and academic skills to allow them to keep up with changes in their field, Aubin said.
"There is no way you can learn a trade and not continue your education after you get out of school," Aubin said. That requires schools to be more flexible and innovative, something that is difficult with aging buildings and outdated equipment, Aubin added.
Superintendents stressed that, in the last round of funding for school improvement projects around the state, no vocational school won grants for renovations through the Massachusetts School Building Authority.
"He definitely is looking at the fact that not one vocational school, last year, got into the MSBA pipeline," Aubin said. "He is looking at the MSBA process. Many of our schools are in the same boat: We are in buildings that are 50 years old."
The superintendents backed up their request with figures showing there is a national shortage of trained technical employees, he said.
The hope, Aubin said, is that the governor can use his influence to convince the MSBA to give more attention to requests from vocational schools. The governor also said he would look at the process followed by the Skills Capital Grants program administered by his office.
"We hope that, next year, we'll be awarded a grant," Aubin said. "We are zero for two right now."
He was encouraged by the meeting, Aubin added.
"Challenges are great for vocational schools, but we are the vehicle for a renaissance in the state," he said. "The governor understands that."
Email Kevin P. O'Connor at firstname.lastname@example.org