PARIS — It’s a busy time for Nancy McLean-Morrissette, Student Services Coordinator for Oxford Hills Technical School.

McClean-Morrissette oversees the enrollment period for the school’s vocational programs and she is in the thick of it.

“Priority deadline was on February 28,” she said on Monday afternoon. “Last week and this week program instructors are interviewing students for classes. By Friday they will wrap that up, and on Monday I will post enrollments to date.”

There is still plenty of time for students to turn in applications, but as class slots are available on a first-come, first-serve basis some programs may be full by the end of the week. Even if programs have no space, students still have a chance to interview for their second or third choices; they may also request to be be put on a wait list. McClean-Morrissette expects enrollments will shift around a bit right up until the new school year begins next September.

Student Logan Dudley demonstrates welding during the 2020 annual Oxford Hills Tech Challenge at Oxford Hills Technical School in Paris in January. Courtesy Brewster Burns

“Culinary arts, graphic design and advanced communications are very popular,” said McClean-Morrissette. “And auto collision repair and automotive technology, as well as engineering and architectural design. Those are the programs that tend to fill up first.”

Maine Vocational Region 11, which includes SAD 17 and students from Buckfield, has continued to expand. McClean-Morrissette said that 554 students enrolled in classes for this year, just about half of the high school.

She said there are no major changes to the choices students have for next year. There is one rule change that affects some student enrolling in Allied Health. Previously, students had to be at least 16 when they took their certified nursing assistant test. Then they had to be 16 by Oct. 1 after the classes started. Now, however, they must be 16 when school starts in September. Many kids that want to apply might not be old enough.

There are also some new options for students in the forestry and heavy equipment program. The school has brought in an excavator so they can learn other heavy equipment besides skidder operation. And OHTS has contracted with Oxford Hills Adult Ed to provide commercial driver’s license training.

“Until this year, students that wanted CDL training through the forestry program had to commute up to the Voc. 9 school in Mexico,” said McClean-Morrissette. “It took a lot of time off their day. Even though they’d car pool, kids would end up sitting around while others had their drive time. Adult ed classes are in the evening so they still have their tech classes during the day. There are four slots in the fall and four in the spring so students have a better option to learn that skill.”

Each of the 20 tech programs is overseen by an advisory board to help manage it. The boards help instructors stay on top of current technologies and industry practices. They also act as resources for kids on future employment. Some will hire for their own businesses but also provide leads for the broader job market.

OHTS programs are designed and managed to provide students marketable skills in growing fields, that provide employees with a liveable wage. For most their education won’t stop with graduation. More than 60% report through student surveys that they intend to attend a four- or two-year college. Another 4% plan on earning industry certifications in their field, and 4.5% will join the miltary after high school.

For now, while students may not get their top choice if they have yet to put in their application, McClean-Morrissette says that shouldn’t deter them. If there are class openings kids should still be able to get into the program of their choice.

“At this point, kids should check with me about applying,” McClean-Morrissette said. “If they have questions about particular programs, they should contact the program instructor directly.”


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