HOULTON — Officials from the Department of Labor and the Department of Education traveled from Augusta earlier this month to present the Region Two School of Applied Technology with the Safety and Health Award for Public Employers, or SHAPE. It recognizes public sector employers as being models of workplace safety and health.
“This is not an easy award to get,” said David Wacker, director of workplace safety and health for the Maine DOL. He said the award recognizes hazard training achievement and compliance with the government’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations.
Although the DOL has no authority over the students, the students are trained in workplace safety, which could give them an edge in the marketplace. “The students are going out with an OSHA card saying they have been trained in all the hazards and OSHA regulations. And they get certification from the federal government. So when they walk out of here and apply for a job, employers are going to say, ‘Oh, you’ve had the OSHA training. We want you.’” Wacker said.
“This allows them to jump into a job a lot quicker than some kids who haven’t had this education. The award is a great thing for the school,” said Bruce Clark, a member of the Region Two school board and the SAD 29 board. He added, “Vocational education is very important. Not every child or student can go to college.”
Michael Howard, director of Region Two, stated that the school has been working on fulfilling the requirements of an intense examination of policies and procedures for about 18 months. “It’s a demonstration that we have safe work practices here. So it’s an honor.”
The school has several vocational programs, including culinary arts, forestry, auto body, automotive vehicles, business, early childhood education, welding and health science. “So they actually have done inspections of these programs to make sure they are following all of the good, safe practices,” Howard said. “Our whole staff is covered under this award — not just our programs. We have been working on putting our policies together, and we have had multiple inspections by the Department of Labor. It’s a very prestigious award.”