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At Northeast Technical Institute, the primary focus in our course development is to ensure that all of the time students spend in the classroom is completely focused on career training. With that in mind, we were excited to hear a recent story on Maine Public Radio that highlighted the curriculum at Harpswell Coastal Academy.

The charter school in Harpswell uses “work-based learning” to teach skills beyond traditional classroom lessons. Students may begin their days in the classroom with standard math and English classes, but most of their day could be spent outside working on projects, including building a greenhouse or an outdoor classroom. The goal is to develop skills that are critical for career development, such as work ethic and team building.

Beyond just the curriculum design, the idea for the school came out of the town’s concern for the viability of their fishing community. With a decline in commercial fishing licenses and an uncertain future, residents feared that students would become disengaged in school, since a traditional curriculum did not provide any connection to the local industry or foundation of the community. With that in doubt, why stay in Maine? The school was designed to provide an education that made that connection and provided real-world skills.

Similarly, our goal at Northeast Technical Institute is to continue to engage students in training that leads to stable careers that help grow the Maine economy. While unemployment numbers are low, we still consistently hear from companies that they are struggling to find trained workers. We seek to meet the needs of those employers with highly-trained candidates who not only have the skills needed to fill the immediate need, but also become long-term employees focused on growing their careers and the companies that employ them. The focus on work-based training allows us to develop students into critical cogs in the Maine economy.

We highly recommend that you listen to the story to hear about one town’s success in building a new type of school. We hope that more schools will follow suit. In the meantime, we will continue to develop training that focuses on getting students to work.

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