Bath Regional Career and Technical Center (BRCTC) is celebrating its 50th anniversary amidst the upheaval of a school year stopped short, but a deep-rooted history of innovation, hard work, and commitment to quality teaching mean the foundations of this renowned career and technical education high school are hard to shake.
This month, 68 seniors hailing from four different local high schools will finish out their BRCTC education in programs ranging from carpentry to childcare to graphic design. Tyler Babcock, a student in the culinary program, plans to work as a cook at Chop Point after graduation with hopes to eventually build and run his own restaurant.
“BRCTC was my best part of high school – the part of the day I was always looking forward to,” said Babcock. “It’s where you learn skills to become a better person [while] building skills in teamwork and whatever field you choose.”
Carl Amirault was an instructor in the building program when the school first opened, and now sits on the carpentry advisory committee. He recalled his students building the program’s first house (now a proud tradition at BRCTC) with help from the Bath Rotary, and eventually using the profits from the sale of the home to provide equipment and tool kits, as well as scholarships to students for continuing their education.
“The BRCTC is an excellent opportunity for students to learn the trades for jobs that are very much in demand and pay extremely well,” said Amirault. “I hope to see the technical center continue and stay abreast of all the new and constantly changing of materials and procedures in the trades [so that] students [can be] successful from the day they graduate the program.”
BRCTC is not planning its next 50 years at the same location, however. The school will be moving to a newly constructed facility next to the new Morse High School. Director Julie Kenny is looking forward to the relocation as a chance to expand programming and enhance student experience.
“We plan to add a cosmetology and criminal justice program, and will have state-of-the-art spaces for each in the new building! The building also takes a new design approach where the career and technical education (CTE) programs are strategically intermixed with the academic programs. Though not all students will take a CTE program, we certainly hope that more students will be exposed to the opportunities,” she said.
Along with the move, BRCTC will be debuting a new logo and nickname: “Bath Tech.”
“We went through a year-long process of name recommendations and community voting and decided to keep ‘Bath Regional Career and Technical Center,’ but to update to ‘Bath Tech’ to simplify and get rid of the acronym that was so difficult for some to say,” Kenny said.
Kenny, who taught commercial arts and was BRCTC’s student services coordinator for six years before becoming director in 2016, said that one of her goals is to expose a more diverse range of students to the school’s programming in the coming years.
“In the past there has been such a stigma about vocational training, but times are changing, and people are beginning to realize the potential of high school students learning hands-on career skills.”
A 2019 article from Forbes stated that “America is facing an unprecedented skilled labor shortage,” and discussed the understated potential of pursuing a trade career. Many high school students are pushed to pursue a college degree with little knowledge of non-collegiate options, which may cause them to miss out on a rewarding career suited to their strengths. With healthy salary and benefit packages available to skilled laborers, it makes sense for all students to consider the offerings of career and technical schools, whether they are considering college or not.
Many of this year’s seniors will leave BRCTC with industry-recognized certifications and/or college credits which will serve them well post-graduation. Welding program graduate Madison Thompson plans to attend Washington County Community College in Calais where she will continue to advance her skills. She hopes to pursue a career building custom motorcycles. When asked what she would tell a student who is interested in taking classes at BRCTC, she said she would tell them to do it: “they have amazing programs and great staff.”
Besides certificates, credits, and life skills, there is another important asset, though intangible, that the school has to offer: its community spirit. Kenny, in a video to seniors, offered an encouraging reminder:
“Please know that after you graduate, we’re still here for you. Call the school, email your teacher, make an appointment for after school hours one day. We want to keep in touch.”