Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia poses with 11th grade carpentry students from Dean Tech following a tour of the Holyoke Veterans Home construction site.
Reminder Publishing photos by Trent Levakis.

HOLYOKE — A group of 11th grade carpentry students from Dean Tech had the opportunity to tour the construction site at the Holyoke Veterans Home on May 23 and were joined by Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia to check out the progress made so far on the reconstruction project.

The same group of 11th grade carpentry students are scheduled to return to the Veterans Home as seniors next year to see the progress made over a year of the site. Garcia told Reminder Publishing this tour serves as a great opportunity for students in trade to gain firsthand exposure to a large-scale project with so many moving pieces involved.

“We’re creating that pipeline. Kids learning the trades, getting the next generation of workforce ready to step into these building trades,” Garcia said. “Today our 11th graders got to tour the site and learn firsthand from the construction workers directly a little bit about the job. Next year these kids are going to be in 12th grade, they’re going to come back and they’re going to tour the site again and see all the progress that had been made in the year.”

Garcia added that the tours and exposure alongside students’ education at Dean Tech will work to cultivate their learning path as they try to figure out what their futures are going to be in this particular field.

“The environment is shifting with our youth. It’s very difficult to get their attention at the high school level, but what’s neat about this is it takes them out of the classroom and into a real-life site,” Garcia said. “What’s great about this particular site is it’s a $400 plus million project, this isn’t just building a house. The magnitude of this project and the positive impact it’s going to have for our veterans, kids will be able to drive by this site and say, ‘hey, I toured that and I was a part of that,’ and hopefully that will inspire and motivate them to want to go into the careers and continuing to build more.”

Garcia added these efforts come in response to a workforce shortage in the trades and efforts being made by the city and Dean Tech to strengthen their pipeline from the high school level into the workforce. He added that these students would also be touring the new Peck Middle School building site in the coming weeks as another opportunity for more exposure for the students.

“Anything we can do to engage our youth in things that are happening within our hometown that’s going to motivate and inspire them to take on a path that’s going to contribute to the fabric of our society is always inspiring,” Garcia said.

He shared that one thing he had learned about the trades is it is never too late to go into one.

“If my political career doesn’t do well, I’ll probably be taking some trade courses,” Garcia joked.

Garcia credited the work done by Dean Tech in thinking outside the box of ways to provide students this type of exposure while they continue to map their career paths.

Dean Tech Career and Technical Education Director Joel McAuliffe told Reminder Publishing his students are already actively involved in work throughout the community, including Habitat for Humanity projects. He said for students to be able to see a cornerstone project such as the Veterans Home up close and personal through this tour was a tremendous opportunity.

“We want to thank the mayor for planning it to really give Dean students an opportunity to see something like this and really related it directly to what’s going on in students’ community,” McAuliffe said.

McAuliffe added as a full vocational school, Dean Tech is focused on work-based learning.

“In the classroom setting we can learn a lot about the trade, but it’s really on the ground seeing the hands-on application in the real world that takes that level of instruction to the next level. And everyone of these students, very soon if not already, be out on job sites. Maybe not as big as this, but in the very near future applying the knowledge that they gained at Dean and taking it to the next level,” McAuliffe said. “It’s about creating opportunity for them to ensure that they can get a good paying job and really continue to contribute to the Holyoke community.”

tlevakis@thereminder.com | + posts