By G. Michael Dobbs
CHICOPEE – Kenneth Widelo was standing in a classroom dedicated to computer science and learning about networks at Chicopee Comprehensive High School (CCHS) and told Dr. Susan Windham-Bannister, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, “These kids can do it all.”
The head of the Massachusetts Life Science Center received a first-hand look at how CCHS is preparing a workforce for high tech jobs.
Windham-Bannister visited the school on April 10 accompanied by Widelo, director of Career and Technical Education, state Rep. Joseph Wagner and Mayor Richard Kos.
The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center supports educational programs through grants to strengthen the job market in science and technology. Windham-Bannister told at audience at Western New England University recently, “The life science cluster has become the fastest job creator in Massachusetts and Massachusetts is producing the jobs faster than any other state.”
Wagner explained the propose of the tour was so “The Life Science Center could get a better understanding of how things get done [at CCHS] and what is needed.”
Widelo also brought Windham-Bannister to one of the high school’s newest programs, Design and Visual Communications and to the Machine Tool Technology classroom.
Windham-Bannister explained applying for a grant to support equipment and supplies for a science, math and technology curriculum is a competitive process, but the center works with schools in helping them prepare their application.
When Wagner asked if a school could receive more than one grant, Windham-Bannister replied, “This is not a one and done program.”
She added, “We like to say we want to keep up with the dreams of a school.”
The Massachusetts Life Science center was founded in 2008, Windham-Bannister explained, and plans to invest $1 billion over a 10-year period in supporting the development of a high tech workforce in the Commonwealth. Besides awarding grants to school, the Life Science Center also encourages collaborations with the private sector.
Windham-Bannister said there are a number of advancing manufacturing companies in the Commonwealth looking to establish partnerships with high schools and colleges.
Wagner called CCHS “a resource that is not used to its potential.”