Hassan visits technical school in Claremont, praises work being done

  • U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., talks with students Alexis Beltran, left, Rohan Simoneau, and Cameron Plourde during their building and construction class at Sugar River Valley Regional Technical Center in Claremont, N.H., on Thursday, March 21, 2019. At the center is SAU 6 Acting Superintendent Cory LeClair .(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., talks with student Anna O'Hara about her project for a principles of engineering class at the Sugar River Valley Regional Technical Center in Claremont, N.H., on Thursday, March 21, 2019. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 3/21/2019 10:25:23 PM
Modified: 3/21/2019 10:25:34 PM

CLAREMONT — From watching students chop vegetables in the culinary arts kitchen to seeing others explain their projects in machine tooling, building trades and heating/ventilation/air conditioning, U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., came away from a visit to the Sugar River Valley Technical Center impressed by what she saw and heard.

“It was really great to see so many students engaged in career and technical education,” Hassan said after spending about an hour touring the center on Thursday morning. “We know there are lots of jobs out there for people with these skills, and we need to make sure we are preparing them effectively.”

In each classroom, Hassan asked the students about their work and what motivated them to study the trades. One of those students was junior Anna O’Hara, who along with classmate Lucien Wright demonstrated the work they were doing in Project Lead the Way, an engineering course that uses computer-aided design software.

O’Hara said the technical center has helped her not only further her interest in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields but also broaden that interest through two STEM courses at River Valley Community College.

“It provides so many opportunities,” O’Hara said about the grant-funded program. “It has been great.”

Hassan also said the work at the local level on career and technical education complements what is being done in Congress.

“We recently authorized the Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century and that incentivizes CTE to work with the local business communities and industries associations to make sure the skills they are teaching here are the skills employers need,” Hassan said.

At the Sugar River center, director Alex Herzog, who joined Acting SAU 6 Superintendent Cory LeClair on the tour, said it is critical to work closely with local businesses so the skills being taught match, to the greatest extent possible, the needs of employers.

“We want to create opportunities to connect with businesses,” Herzog said. “Our program advisory committees meet with professionals to discuss curriculums and go over their needs.”

In the culinary arts, the center has created a certificate that attests to the skills learned and Herzog said the program already has connected with two restaurants that accept the certificates.

Hassan also said she was impressed by how much the students were doing and engaged in what they were learning.

“They were talking about their future, maybe in trades, maybe in engineering,” she said. “It was really important for me to see how motivated they were, and I think that is the other piece of this: We need to find ways that young people can engage and learn in a way that makes sense to them.”

The technical center also has courses in accounting and early childhood education.

Before heading to Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering for an afternoon visit, Hassan commented on the crowded field of Democratic candidates seeking the party’s nomination for president. Asked if she had a favorite, Hassan said it is far too early for that discussion and instead wants to focus on the issues that matter most to New Hampshire voters and welcoming all candidates to the state.

“I think we have a very vibrant and large field and it is very early yet,” Hassan said. “So I’m trying to be a good hostess (for the First-in-the-Nation primary) and a good sounding board. What has been really fun for me is how many of the candidates are falling in love with N.H., which is not a surprise but always good to hear.”

Hassan said she is hearing concerns from voters on health care, child care and college and is listening to candidates respond.

“I think we are seeing a range of really strong, bold policy ideas come out of our whole group of candidates, but at the end of the day, I think it is very important to focus on solving problems and being practical,” Hassan said when asked about the progressive stance taken by many candidates on issues such as health care. “Granite Staters are very pragmatic people who have ideas on how to improve things without being overly disruptive, and I think that is a really important there be a balance.”

Hassan did not say former Vice President Joe Biden needs to get in the race but said he has the credentials.

“I think he has a great case to be made for president so we’ll see what he does,” Hassan said. “We have great candidates, but he has a strong case to make.”

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.

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