'Mack' trucks into high schools to pitch technical careers

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Last week, a 53-foot tractor-trailer rolled up to the curb outside the public high school in Cambridge, Mass. Mack Trucks Inc.'s museum on wheels was visiting the latest stop on a national high school tour designed to sell students on technical careers. And the company's mascot, a 65-pound bulldog, came along for the ride.

Just a few feet from Harvard University's campus, the Rindge and Latin school may not seem like the ideal place to find the next generation of truck mechanics.

But like those in most American high schools, Cambridge's graduates will not all go on to a university education. In fact, the school introduced a revamped vocational educational program last year, with courses in everything from automotive repair to culinary arts.

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Mack's Daniel Danko says the company is looking to such students to fill a shortage of skilled workers – ranging from technicians to computer designers – who can work on an increasingly sophisticated type of truck, which he describes as a "computer on wheels."

So he came to plant in students' minds the idea of attending technical schools after graduation, and to overcome technical work's reputation as low wage, repetitive, or dead end.

Graduates of two-year technical schools sometimes find a more welcoming job market than those who attend four-year schools, 43 percent of whom were underemployed after graduating in the 1990s, says Kenneth Gray, a professor of workforce education and development at Pennsylvania State University.

Still, in Cambridge at least, Mack's fast-paced, loud-music-filled video and a rolling museum of truck history drew less attention than its canine mascot.

But 10th-grader Mike Frisoli did see a potential career for himself as he viewed data displayed on the truck's on-board computer. "I didn't think trucks are computerized, and the satellite thing amazed me too," Mike said.

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