BROCKTON — Nearly 200 future nurses, doctors, home health aides and other healthcare workers will have the opportunity to earn college credits for free — all while taking their regular classes at Brockton High School.
Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito announced recently that Brockton High School has received an official designation allowing them to launch an Innovation Pathways program in healthcare starting this fall. Innovation Pathways, a program started by the Massachusetts Dept. of Education in 2017, aims to give high school students experience in specific high-demand industries such as information technology, advanced manufacturing and, in Brockton’s case, healthcare through work experience and college courses.
“Healthcare is our number one industry,” said Sheila Sullivan-Jardim, executive director of MassHire Greater Brockton Workforce Board, which is partnering with Brockton High for the program. “We have three acute-care hospitals in the city of Brockton, a VA, a number of assisted care living facilities and other healthcare and social service areas within the city boundaries. It was a really good match for us.”
Brockton High’s Innovation Pathways program will give up to 193 Brockton high school students the opportunity to take college-level classes related to healthcare through Massasoit Community College, Bay State College, and Bridgewater State University and intern with local healthcare employers to earn college credits at no cost to them.
“There’s no downside,” Brockton Public Schools Interim Superintendent Mike Thomas said. “It’s a saving to their families and less they have to take out in student loans. The more opportunities we can provide like this, the better because obviously it’s saving them money and giving them a head start in college.”
Students from all grade levels with an interest in healthcare will be able to participate, Thomas said, and can do so by contacting their guidance counselors.
Brockton High School is partnering with the MassHire Greater Brockton Workforce Board and the Forsyth Institute Student Scholars Program to launch the program, which Thomas said will expand pre-existing internship opportunities and partnerships with area employers such as the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center, Good Samaritan Medical Center and Signature Healthcare Brockton Hospital.
The program will give participants a “true understanding” of what it’s like to be in the healthcare industry, Sullivan-Jardim said, and will provide them with an “invaluable experience” to not only get ahead if they do choose an education or career in healthcare, but also help them to figure out if healthcare is not a good match for them before spending thousands of dollars in tuition.
And with the local hospitals being the largest employers in the region, Sullivan-Jardim said the program provides an opportunity to keep students in the area and fill a need for workers.
“We’re in a unique position to fill some of those jobs and to train people … so they can actually find employment in their home,” she said. “We don’t want to see our brightest and our best moving elsewhere. We want them to stay in the Brockton region and, again, this is an opportunity that would allow them to do that.”
Thomas said that not only will the grant help students expand the high school’s current vocational programs, such as the nursing program, but higher vocational enrollment will lead to an increased Chapter 74 funding earmarked for vocational programs in public school districts starting next school year, therefore benefiting the other vocational programs at Brockton High School.
The current Innovation Pathways grant award, consisting of a $10,000 planning grant awarded last December and an undisclosed implementation grant to be announced at a later date, will help Brockton High to start up the program, Massachusetts Secretary of Education Jim Peyser said. A bill still under consideration by the Legislature would provide additional Chapter 70 school district funding earmarked for these programs to continue them and expand them, he said.