Northern Essex, Haverhill High Plan STEM Tech Career Academy with $1 Million State Grant

Dr. Paul Beaudin, vice president of academic affairs at Northern Essex Community College. (Courtesy photograph.)

Haverhill High School and Northern Essex Community College are working together to launch a STEM Tech Career Academy next spring, focused on providing free education for students entering manufacturing, healthcare and environmental and life sciences.

The institutions will build on existing Early College and Innovation pathway programs and include Lawrence General Hospital, Whittier Health Networks, Holy Family Hospital, New Balance and Hydracor as industry partners.

“The ultimate goal is to establish a high-quality workforce-related degree program for about 400 students when this academy is fully operational,” says Northern Essex Provost Paul Beaudin. “We’re excited to be chosen as one of the five partnerships for this initiative. This helps confirm our long-standing collaborative partnership with Haverhill High School.”

When the program is ready to launch in the fall of 2025, participating Haverhill High students will earn between 18-24 college credits before graduating high school. They will then transition to Northern Essex, where they will finish their associate degrees. The program will include internships both at the high school and college levels. Classes will take place at Haverhill High School and on Northern Essex campuses.

Aaron Altman, Northern Essex associate dean of K-12 partnerships, says, “Rather than thinking about college or career, what makes this opportunity so exciting is that it provides a unique approach towards finding the connection between college and career, leading to increased opportunities for our students.”

The effort is one of five statewide that was awarded $1 million from the state Monday to help more young people earn associate degrees and industry certificates in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math fields. STEM Tech Career Academies will launch as six-year programs that enable high school students to earn both a high school diploma and a post-secondary credential at a community college, at no cost to the students.

“This new initiative will build off the success of our administration’s Early College and Innovation Pathway programs to create more intentional links between high schools, community colleges and employers,” says Gov. Charlie Baker. “STEM Tech Career Academies will enable more high school students to earn degrees and credentials and provide more young people with skills and knowledge in STEM fields.”

STEM Tech Career Academies combine and extend elements of Early College and early career Innovation Pathways programs that were launched several years ago, including technical curriculum, work-based learning experiences, post-secondary courses and college and career coaching.

The state plan is modeled after P-Tech, a grades 9-14 school model where students earn a high school diploma, an industry-recognized associate degree and gain relevant work experience in a growing field. Students completing a P-Tech program are typically provided with hiring preferences by participating employers.

State officials said the new initiative also aims to address equity and opportunity gaps in STEM industries. Women and minority groups continue to be underrepresented in STEM fields in Massachusetts and across the country. Outside of healthcare, there are roughly three men to every woman in STEM jobs like computer science, mathematics and engineering, and 2020 data estimated that just 27% of STEM workers are non-white. In Massachusetts, just 5% of the STEM workforce is Black, and just 6% is Hispanic.

“As we continue to address inequity in our workforce, the STEM Tech Career Academy is an excellent initiative that provides opportunity and access within high-demand sectors for traditionally underserved individuals,” adds Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Rosalin Acosta.

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