The former Boggy Brook Regional Vocational Center, renamed the Hancock County Technical Center, is playing a special role as Maine and the rest of the country slide into recession. Jobs are probably going to be scarce, and the center and others like it across the state are providing the specialized training that can help students find work.
Students from eight participating area high schools typically spend a half-day at the brick building in Ellsworth’s North Side, with a banner on the front that says, “Technology Can Take You Places.” The 140 students take elective lecture or shop courses not offered at their high schools that will start them on the way to entering the work force.
The courses currently offered are automotive technology, carpentry, computer technology, robotics engineering, culinary arts, diesel/heavy equipment, health science careers, certified nurse assisting, and TV/video production. Under consideration is a future course in law enforcement.
Students come from seven Hancock County high schools: Ellsworth, Mount Desert Island, Sumner, Deer Isle-Stonington, Bucksport, George Stevens, and Acadia Christian, as well as Narraguagus in Washington County.
Some graduates go directly to a job, often after learning the ropes through apprenticeships while still in high school. About 80 percent of the students go on to college, at one of Maine’s community colleges or at other educational institutions such as Husson University.
HCTC serves the needs of students who prefer vocational training to a liberal arts education. As Husson’s President William H. Beardsley put it recently, Husson leaves the great field of liberal arts to Bates, Bowdoin and Colby and gears its undergraduate and graduate degrees to jobs and professions.
HCTC no longer has graduation exercises but takes certificates to the various high schools for presentation at their commencements. During the school year, it honors exceptional work by selecting a student of the month. The Ellsworth Rotary Club has been celebrating these students by inviting them to club meetings and awarding them plaques. This year, the club is honoring two of the students every other month and involving speakers from community businesses where the graduates might find jobs. This is a valuable and important bridge.
HCTC had a rocky start about 30 years ago. It began as the Boggy Brook Regional Vocational Center, named for a nearby stream and road. Like other Maine technical schools it was funded by local cities and towns. But it became something of a political football. Voters rejected it, and a committee once provided a budget of only $1. It stood idle until Ellsworth leaders took over its ownership and debt and incorporated it into the Ellsworth school system.
Most people now recognize it as a sterling asset to the community, helping students prepare to earn a living.