Despite that interest, vocational schools have a long history of disfavor to overcome. This national notion that vocational education tracked students toward dead-end professions is absolutely untrue. 

On a Monday morning in late spring, city buses arrive like clockwork on Malcolm X Boulevard, disgorging students hunched over cellphones, earbud wires trailing down the fronts of hoodies. They file toward Madison Park Technical Vocational High School, where executive director Kevin McCaskill, in a suit and pin-striped shirt with matching pocket square, and two other administrators greet them as if part of a receiving line. “Good morning! Good morning! Good morning!” McCaskill booms at bleary-eyed kids moving as if they are battling a stiff wind. 

Among those passing through the metal doors is Reno Guerrero, who emigrated several years ago with his mother, older sister, and younger brother from the Dominican Republic to Dorchester. Guerrero, 19, wears a white T-shirt, jeans, and white socks with soccer sandals. His hair is close-cropped, and a shadow of a beard is shaved to precision points at his temples. Clear stone studs sparkle in each earlobe. He is feeling nervous about his senior presentation on engine repair, the culmination of three years of course work plus intensive training in automotive technology. But the nerves are tempered by excitement. He’s learned he’s been accepted to MassBay Community College, and he already has a job lined up for after graduation at a garage that services Boston’s city-owned vehicles. “Cars, for me, is everything right now,” he says. “It’s what I know how to do, and I’m going to do it for life.”

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News, Workforce / Skills Gap