Vocational schools have large shop spaces, and they tend to have fewer students than traditional high schools, two factors that have enabled many to stay open during the pandemic, including South Shore Vocational Technical High School in Hanover.

But that doesn’t mean it’s business as usual. Students are taking many of their academic classes remotely, so there’s more room on campus for students getting hands on experience in trades like carpentry, welding and culinary arts. The pandemic has had a significant impact on the cosmetology department, where an in-house salon is closed. Instead of clients, students are practicing their trade on mannequins — and each other.

“I miss talking to clients,” said senior Kaitlyn Whitman, who in a typical year would be spending 32 hours per week working as part of a paid co-op program.

Almost half the students at South Shore Tech will go on to higher education, including Whitman, who wants to become a lawyer. She hopes to land a job at a hair salon to support herself through college.

Despite the pandemic, the overall demand for skilled labor remains high, and so is the demand for vocational education. There’s a wait list to get into South Shore Tech, something COVID hasn’t changed.

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