Public safety education options explored for Berlin High School
BERLIN — Today many young people need to leave the North Country to pursue their career goals, but that may change for those interested in a public safety career if a new program proposed by Berlin High School’s Career and Technical Education Director Roland Pinette comes to fruition.
The high school currently offers several CTE programs connected to courses at White Mountain Community College and internships with local businesses. Probably the most successful and well-known is the welding program. The college offers a 28-credit certificate program in welding. Between the CTE welding program and blueprint courses at the high school, a Berlin High School student can graduate with 25 of those 28 credits – at no charge.
Pinette hopes the public safety/law enforcement program could ultimately do the same.
Pinette said he first began thinking about the program when he considered career possibilities in the area. In addition to the police departments, there are three prisons and a large area patrolled by Fish and Game. Other possibilities include fire departments, border control stations and the court system.
Last year an informal survey of juniors and seniors asked if they’d be interested should such a program become available.
“A significant number were, enough to warrant continued exploration,” Pinette said.
He also looked at labor market statistics and discovered there were opportunities in the field of law enforcement in Coos County.
The program would provide courses students could take that would also enable them to branch out into different fields.
There are other public safety CTE programs in the state focused on law enforcement and fire science, including the Manchester School of Technology and Concord High School.
Karen White is the director of CTE programs at the Manchester School of Technology. They have had a public safety CTE program for about 12 years and 60 students are usually involved with the program. She said the public safety cluster can include many careers: police, fire science, homeland security, forensics, etc.
“Different towns will adapt the program to their needs,” she said.
Manchester’s program there concentrates on police and fire. They have a strong relationship with these departments and students go on ride-alongs with police. New this year is a program that will enable students to get Firefighter 1 certification.
The public safety program at Concord High School is about a decade old and 44 students are involved.
Steve Rothenberg, director of CTE programs there, said the public safety cluster can create pathways not only to jobs in the public sector, but also to the private sector, such as paralegals.
The Concord program has concentrated mainly on preparing for a career in law enforcement/criminal justice.
“We have a wealth of retirees that are still young, in their 50s, who are ready to come to classrooms,” he said. “They have a wide berth of experience and can give a lot to the kids.”
Lisa Danley is in charge of CTE programs for the state Department of Education.
“The public safety cluster can look like a lot of things,” she said.
Different schools do different parts of the cluster depending on the region’s need. And it must be tied to the region’s needs because there must be a link to industry, she said
Danley believes what Berlin is starting to plan could be different from what other schools are doing because it could involve two different clusters, public safety and natural resources/conservation.
Planning has just begun in Berlin, but ultimately the resulting program could be unique in the state, she said.
Since getting the results from the student survey last year, Pinette has been planning, making contacts, exploring grant opportunities and gauging the interest of possible partners and employees.
He said he contacted Berlin Police Chief Peter Morency and he expressed interest right away. Morency said this would be a way to get students who may be interested in the field on the right track before they do something that would make a law enforcement career not possible for them.
Pinette said he has gotten course lists and descriptions from WMCC. He wants to get courses at the high school and at the college aligned from the start.