State leaders have awarded $5 million to five new STEM Tech Career Academies as part of a new initiative aimed at helping more high school students earn associate degrees and certifications upon graduation.
The academies will start next school year as a six-year program for students to simultaneously earn their high school diplomas and post-secondary credentials at a community college at no cost.
“STEM Tech Career Academies will be a way to smooth the transition from high school to college and career and give more young people added support so they are able to earn associate degrees and industry recognized credentials,” Education Secretary James Peyser said in a statement on Monday when the announcing the grants. “Cohorts of students will move seamlessly from high school to higher education, giving them more opportunities for academic success, career readiness, and better outcomes in persisting until they graduate from college.”
The STEM Tech Career Academies include elements of the state’s early college and early career pathways programs, such as allowing high school students to earn college credits while attaining their high school diploma and having connections to employers. Some students in early college programs also earn enough to earn an associate degree.
Massachusetts more than doubled its investment in early college earlier this year by providing $19 million in the state’s $52.7 billion spending plan to help scale up the programs in schools throughout Massachusetts. There are currently 60 high schools with students enrolled in innovation pathway programs and 50 high schools that participate in early college programs across the state. State officials expect the number of participating high schools to grow to 75 for innovation pathway programs and to 65 for early college programs by fall 2023.
“This new initiative will build off the success of our administration’s Early College and Innovation Pathway programs to create more intentional links between high schools, community colleges and employers,” Governor Charlie Baker said in a statement. “STEM Tech Career Academies will enable more high school students to earn degrees and credentials and provide more young people with skills and knowledge in STEM fields.”
The five colleges received $1 million grants each to launch the academies:
- Benjamin Franklin Cummings Institute of Technology will partner with Dearborn STEM Academy and Cambridge Rindge and Latin to create an academy focused on manufacturing, IT, and environmental and life science careers.
- Haverhill High School will work with Northern Essex Community College to launch an academy focused on manufacturing, healthcare, and environmental and life sciences.
- MassBay Community College has a partnership with Natick High School to implement an academy focused on manufacturing and environmental and life sciences.
- Bristol Community College will work with BMC Durfee High School, Somerset Berkley High School, Westport High School, Taunton High School, and Attleboro High School to launch an environmental and life sciences careers academy.
- Springfield Technical Community College will partner with West Springfield High School and Veritas Prep Charter School for its academy on healthcare, manufacturing, and business and financial services.
The new STEM Tech Career Academies are modeled after P-Tech programs, a grade 9-14 school model where students can earn their high school diploma and an associate degree in addition to gaining relevant work experience; the students in these programs are also likely to be hired by employers that participate in the programs, according to a statement.
The initiative is also aimed at bringing more opportunities to schools and bring more diversity in the field, said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. The STEM workforce in Massachusetts is 5 percent Black and 6 percent Latino, according to a statement.
“Many of these awardees are in underserved areas where a lot of these kids don’t see themselves in STEM careers, they might not have an immediate role model,” Polito said in an interview. “That’s one of the branding messages that we created, ‘See yourself in STEM. There’s a pathway to your future in a STEM career, and here’s how to do it.’”