June 06, 2020

Effort seeks awareness of vocational education

ELLSWORTH — Increasing demand for skilled labor and greater awareness of the value of vocational and technical education are at the heart of a signature campaign under way locally and across the nation.

The premise of the campaign is that America’s future depends on a highly skilled work force.

“Skilled workers are definitely very necessary,” said 18-year-old Nicole Stutz, who studies computers at the Hancock County Technical Center. Stutz also serves as president of a group called Skills-USA-VICA, a Vocational and Industrial Club of America that promotes leadership skills.

“Sixty-seven percent of the jobs … available require skilled workers of some sort,” she said.

Students from the Hancock County Technical Center in Ellsworth have launched the local portion of a campaign to gather signatures to affirm the importance of skilled labor. Eventually, said Stutz, the signatures will be taken to Congress — a move that aims to culminate in more grants to promote vocational skills.

“Nationwide we are trying to raise 1 million signatures,” said Stutz, a Bucksport senior who takes classes at the Hancock County Technical Center. Students locally have reached their goal of collecting 150 signatures, but want to exceed it.

The signatures assert statements such as: The prosperity of local communities and the nation as a whole depends on workers’ skills; the country must do more to promote the careers of skilled occupations; all students should be given the opportunity to develop occupational and academic skills to their highest levels.

At the local technical center, students studying auto mechanics come out certified to perform state inspections, and health care students can become certified nurses’ assistants with training offered through a technical center, Stutz said.

The idea is that students build skills while earning a diploma, she said.

“We have a lot of smart people there,” said Stutz of the Hancock County facility, where the student-to-teacher ratio averages 4-to-1.

Stutz enrolled in the computer repairs and computer graphics programs in September to help prepare for next fall when she plans to enter the military at an Air Force base in Texas.

“I plan on going to college when I get out of the military,” she said. Ultimately, Stutz said, she wants to offer dance instruction.

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