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Interprint And Taconic High School Join To Grow Manufacturing

Jim Levulis

The students at Taconic High School in Pittsfield now have a new partner in the business world and it’s just five miles away from their classrooms.Thanks to new digital displays attached to milling and lathe machines in Taconic’s shop room, students can make precise cuts without having to rely on their eyes matching up the lines on greasy dials.

“I have a coffee machine at home that needed a new drip pan and they helped me design that and make it,” said Taconic senior Alex Gillette.  

The “they” Gillette is talking about are employees at Interprint. The Pittsfield-based company is now the official business partner of Taconic, having recently donated the three digital readouts at a cost of roughly $1,000 a piece. Jellet and other students installed them at a savings of about $800 each. Interprint, where some of its 135 employees already instruct at Taconic, will offer factory tours and a six-week internship program this spring. Communications director Peter Stasiowski says students will be part of the company’s reprographic department.

Credit Jim Levulis / WAMC
The digital reader attached to a milling machine tells the operator the exact measurements.

“They will select real world materials so old barn boards or we’ll go to a rock quarry and get some real granite,” Stasiowski said. “Then we’ll scan that into the computer so it’s a digitized version of that pattern. The reprograhpics team what they do is create a repeatable pattern because our print process is a rotogravure process. That repeatable pattern is then printed with inks so that pattern has to be separated into three or four different colors.”

Stasiowski says those designs then get printed to be used on furniture or countertops that have the look of real wood or granite. Having also paid to send two students to an upcoming leadership conference, he says Interprint spent $5,000 assisting Taconic in 2014, a number that’s expected to hold steady. But Pittsfield Schools Superintendent Jason McCandless says the partnership sends a message and not just a check.

“You’re in your school till you’re 18…you can come to us and maybe work till you’re 50, 60 or 70,” McCandless explained. “If you like living here and you want to make this your home there are opportunities here. That’s really the most powerful piece.”

The district is applying for state and city funding to build a new Taconic High estimated at $115 million across the driveway from the current one. If built about 175 vocational students from Pittsfield High School would shift to Taconic. McCandless says the new building will be a gift to the community, but what really matters is what happens inside classrooms wherever they are.

“This partnership certainly whether it’s this building or hopefully in the new building in a few year, it’s really about what we’re doing in the classrooms,” McCandless said. “We needed to say to the community that we’re making improvements, we’re getting better and we’re raising our standards.”

Credit Jim Levulis / WAMC
Taconic's Alex Kent presents Pittsfield Public Schools Superintendent Jason McCandless with a Skills USA jacket

Through partnerships with Berkshire Community College and the city, roughly a quarter million dollars has been invested in vocational facilities at Taconic in recent years, according to college president Ellen Kennedy. Taconic set up a Skills USA chapter this school year, an organization that hosts competitions, events and programs around career and technical education. Beyond manufacturing abilities, Taconic instructor Larry Michalenko says internships through companies like Interprint teach students soft skills.

“So a student maybe was never employed yet, never interacted with adults in a business setting,” Michalenko said. “So it allows these students to come in and practice being a worker. So it gives them skills and say ‘Hey I guess I can’t just go in the corner and hop on my cellphone because the guy that I’m shadowing or interning with he’s not allowed to do that or doesn’t want to do that because he’s making a living.”

Jim is WAMC’s Associate News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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