For Immediate Release - March 12, 2014

Patrick Administration Announces Second Year of Vocational Opportunity Challenge (VOC) Grant Program

School Equipment Grant will build on 2013 success and provide more opportunities for hands-on learning and academic and career success for students

BOSTON – March 12, 2014 - The Patrick Administration today announced the launch of the second year of the Vocational Opportunity Challenge (VOC) competitive grant program, expanding its support of vocational-technical programs by providing additional grant funding to qualifying institutions for the upgrade and purchase of equipment to support and expand vocational and career readiness programs across the Commonwealth.

Building upon the successful first year of the program which provided $1.1 million in VOC grants to 25 vocational programs benefiting 1,671 students, the Executive Office for Administration and Finance (EOAF), the Executive Office of Education (EOE) and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) announced that the Administration will begin accepting applications for a second round of competitive grants to provide more resources to better train students to meet workforce demands.

“The VOC grant program is an investment in the future of our youth and in the Massachusetts economy,” said Governor Deval Patrick. “This program provides the tools to enhance the learning experiences and achieve academics and lifelong success.”

“The Patrick Administration’s VOC grant is one of the many tools we are providing to school districts to prepare the Commonwealth’s students for the 21st Century economy,” said Secretary of Administration and Finance Glen Shor.  “Through this program we are making a down-payment on student success by providing them with the skills to broaden their opportunities for the future.”

Across the Commonwealth, 184 municipalities, or 52% of all cities and towns, are part of a vocational district that received funding through the first year of the program. These schools offer hands-on learning in a number of innovative educational programs to support a range of career fields, especially growing workforce sectors such as advanced manufacturing, clean energy and information technology. Many regional school districts and programs also partner with area businesses and community colleges to prepare the next generation of skilled workers.

“Our vocational and technical schools offer an extensive curriculum, high quality education, and hands-on learning experience that is training our future workforce for the jobs of tomorrow,” said Secretary of Education Matthew Malone. “The VOC grant will help us enhance students' learning in and outside of the classroom."

“The Commonwealth’s Vocational Equipment Grant Program has been a catalyst in ensuring that technical competencies embedded within our training are relevant and reflective of current industrial practices.  The state funds are a welcome complement to our conservative local assessments,” said Dr. Michael F. Fitzpatrick, Superintendent-Director Blackstone Valley Vocational Regional School District which received $25,000 for its dental program through last year’s VOC grant program.

“The second year of this grant will continue providing vocational schools opportunities to enhance the learning experiences of students, allowing students to gain firsthand experience before entering the workforce. I applaud the Administration’s continued commitment to ensuring our students’ success,” said Representative Alice Peisch, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Education.

Funding for the program is provided by the Commonwealth’s Capital Plan.  The Patrick Administration’s five year plan includes $5 million in funding for a competitive grant program to benefit Massachusetts vocational schools.

More information about the program, including the grant guidelines and application, are available on the program’s website:  Applications are due at 5:00PM on April 10, 2014, and funding announcements will be made at the end of May.