Students learn about the New England Laborers’ Apprenticeship Program at the Massachusetts Girls in Trades Conference and Career Fair on Nov. 17. (Photo courtesy Massachusetts Association of Vocational Administrators)

HOLYOKE — The Massachusetts Association of Vocational Administrators is pleased to announce that several MAVA schools attended the annual Massachusetts Girls in Trades Conference and Career Fair last week. 

The event was held on Thursday, Nov. 17 at the Holyoke High School-Dean Campus. The event was the Western and Central Massachusetts version of the fair, with the Eastern Massachusetts fair being held a week earlier in Boston.

A total of 14 schools attended the Nov. 17 fair, with 12 of them being MAVA-affiliated schools. These included Bay Path Regional Vocational Technical High School, Blackstone Valley Vocational Regional School, Chicopee Comprehensive High School, Franklin County Technical High School, Holyoke High School-Dean Campus, Lower Pioneer Valley Career Technical Education Center, McCann High School, Pathfinder Regional Vocational Technical High School, Putnam Vocational Technical High School, Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School, Westfield Technical Academy and Worcester Technical High School.

The Springfield High School of Science & Technology (Sci-Tech) and Wahconah Regional High School were the two non-MAVA schools in attendance. 

The Girls in Trades fair allows female students to meet with and hear from professionals in different trade fields, as well as learn about the opportunities a vocational and technical school can provide after graduation. 

“This is such a powerful event, and it’s impressive how well-attended it has become,” said Holyoke High School-Dean Campus Principal Alan Gates. “I have three daughters myself, and know all too well that there is still a stigma around girls entering the trades. But it’s because of organizations like Massachusetts Girls in Trades and MAVA that we’ve come so far in recent years. The opportunities for the students are there, we just have to make students aware of them and give them the tools they need. That’s why events like these matter so much.”

The event began with opening remarks from Holyoke High School-Dean Campus graduate and current carpenters apprentice Mara Castillo, Principal Gates and Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia. 

Students then heard from several women who are working professionally in various trades, including carpentry, electrical, laborers, ironworkers and more. Several themes discussed included the high-paying jobs available to students entering trades, the lack of student loan debt and the value of being a Union member. 

Ariadnna Ramos, a senior at Holyoke High School-Dean Campus, said she was most interested in learning about the Carpenters Union, not only because of the high pay potential and variety of jobs available but because of the security a Union job offers.

“Being able to talk to others already in the field is so important, because I’ve learned how they are so well taken care of once they become a member,” Ramos said. “You know you will always have someone there to guide you through your career and help you make smart decisions. That’s really important to me.”

For fellow Holyoke High School-Dean Campus senior Yaleshka Bergeron, seeing the school firsthand made her want to enroll and learn about opportunities available to her. The Conference and Career Fair gave her a chance to learn about the carpentry trade as well. 

“My sister is already a carpentry apprentice, and I’ve seen how successful she is,” Bergeron said. “I’ve always found completing a job or a project to be so rewarding, and it’s great to know how my passions can translate into real-world jobs with a lot of pay and chance for advancement.”

As part of the Nov. 17 fair, the gym of the school was lined with more than two dozen booths and displays where students could learn more about various businesses and professions. Several breakout workshops were also held for students to hear more about navigating a vocational and technical school education, becoming a Union tradeswoman, the value of an apprenticeship and more. 

“Events like this are all about making connections,” MAVA Executive Director Steve Sharek said. “They can open students’ eyes to what is available to them, and open doors that they may not otherwise have access to. There really is no substitute for meeting a professional in the field you are interested in and seeing firsthand how they have achieved so much success.”

The event was held in part thanks to a generous donation from the Massachusetts Construction Advancement Program (MCAP). 

To learn more about Massachusetts Girls in Trades, click here.

About MAVA

The Massachusetts Association of Vocational Administrators is a statewide non-profit organization that advocates for high-quality vocational-technical and agricultural education. The Association includes 60 member schools, including regional vocational technical high schools, agricultural schools, independent schools, city vocational schools, an educational collaborative, academic high schools, and comprehensive high schools. All offer at least one state-approved Chapter 74 vocational technical education program. To learn more, click here


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