Machine shop and metal fabrication programs across the country have struggled since the mid-1980s when the rise in global competition resulted in more manufacturing jobs going overseas. Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School in Upton, Massachusetts, was able to keep its program up and running due in large part to its partnership with a local businessman.
Thanks to Scott Rossiter, the former owner and operator of Lampin Corporation (a manufacturer of precision-machined components), Valley Tech now has a thriving state-of-the-art manufacturing technologies program. Able to provide area businesses with capable employee candidates trained to current workforce standards, Valley Tech is considered a model school system on state and national levels. When Valley Tech opened in 1965, government surplus equipment was used to prepare students for jobs as machinists, welders and industrial manufacturing workers.
Some 20 years later, the machine shop and metal fabrication programs had not been updated and faced declining enrollment due to lack of interest and poor job placement opportunities. Seeking machinists and metal workers for his growing company, Rossiter reached out to the local career and technical school for future workers. He knew the potential existed, but was disappointed with what he found.
"I was not impressed with the caliber or motivation of the students in the program at the time," Rossiter said. "Most of them did not want to be in that shop and they didn't plan to actually work in the manufacturing field after they graduated."
Rossiter was determined to save the Valley Tech manufacturing program and to improve the talent pool for employee recruitment.
Business and Industry Involvement
Collaborating with the school's co-operative education coordinator and instructors, Rossiter reached out to other machine shop owners in the region and established a program which paired a mentor from local industry with every student in the shop. He ensured there were representatives from local businesses on hand at the school's annual open house to show prospective students and their parents the lucrative employment opportunities for workers with top-notch industrial skills. Though the fledgling Lampin Corporation had no money to donate at that time, Rossiter provided a wealth of expertise and motivation which was instrumental in reviving a faltering educational program and improving his own company's prospects.
As the partnership between Valley Tech and Lampin solidified, both entities flourished. When Michael Fitzpatrick became Valley Tech superintendent in 1994, Rossiter had a new partner who shared his vision and endorsed his crusade to prove that the American machine shop could survive despite ever-increasing worldwide competition. Valley Tech divested itself of obsolescent equipment, merged the industrial manufacturing and welding programs into a consolidated manufacturing technologies program, and obtained financing to lease new equipment. An expanding Lampin was able to provide matching funding to help purchase additional new state-of-the-art equipment for the school's program.
"I decided to make my donation to the school through the local chamber of commerce as a way to call attention to the benefits of partnering with local schools and encourage other businesses to get involved," Rossiter said. …