Bill Lucci: Believe What You’ll Be, You’ll See 

The question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” has become one that requires innovative solutions to address such issues as, the shortage of essential workers, the changing socio-economic landscape, and the value of lifelong learning.

Over the past three years, for example, the challenge of finding a reputable electrician, plumber, or construction worker in the Killington-Rutland region has become more difficult. Add to that, the shortage of qualified health professionals, plus the challenge of recruiting and retaining skilled hospitality workers or booking a convenient manicure appointment.

For nearly five decades, the educators at Stafford Technical Center (STC, or Stafford, for short) on Route 4 in Rutland, have dedicated their talents to providing innovative programs to address such marketplace demands, training professionals to work in the trades and other hands-on professions.

As Stafford Technical Center’s assistant director for Adult Continuing Technical Education, William (Bill) Lucci is one of the school’s most enthusiastic ambassadors.

“I never dreamed I could make money doing something I love so much,” Lucci said in a recent interview. “All of Stafford’s teachers are practitioners in their trades, so our students get a substantial grounding and hands-on experience in those trades,” he added.

Lucci’s career spans nearly four decades and includes stints as a professor at Green Mountain College, and as a professor and dean of students at College of St. Joseph. He has served in various roles at Stafford for over two decades.

Although Lucci is a candidate for a doctorate in educational administration, he shared with me several perspectives about the advantages of trade schools for those who don’t want a traditional college education, and how Stafford’s programs help boost Vermont’s economy. He also revealed his own career aspirations if he ever retires from education. 

Following is a summary of our discussion, edited for space and clarity.

Stafford Technical Center offers a variety of programs, facilities accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education, and financial aid options for students over the age of 16 who qualify for help in paying for tuition, books, and other expenses.

“For many families, a four-year college degree requires loans that could take decades to pay off,” Lucci said. “Our programs, on the other hand, typically take less time to complete, which means students can start earning a living sooner,” he emphasized.

Stafford Tech programs that most benefit Vermonters include one that addresses a most pressing challenge — the need for qualified health professionals. Students in Stafford’s health careers program learn about anatomy, physiology, and other healthcare-related topics, in preparation for jobs as medical assistants and other opportunities.

Regarding the need for more electricians and plumbers, Stafford’s program teaches students how to install and maintain electrical and plumbing systems and obtain licensing. Other popular programs include training in automotive technology; culinary arts, where students learn how to manage a kitchen as well as how to become cooks, chefs, and bakers; digital arts, which prepares students for careers in graphic design, web development, and other digital media fields; and CDL training, preparing students to become commercial vehicle drivers.

Stafford’s small class sizes provide students with more opportunities to receive personalized attention. Plus, the school’s state-of-the-art facilities provide students with the latest equipment and technology, enabling them to learn in a real-world environment. In Stafford’s cosmetology program, for example, students learn how to cut, color, and style hair, as well as how to provide other beauty services such as makeup and nails.  

To be sure, for some students, there are some advantages to choosing a college that offers a four-year academic degree. In the economic aftermath of the Covid pandemic, however, the notion that a four-year college education is the only advantageous path to a thriving career has all but been debunked.  

As for Bill Lucci’s path, he said he was inspired to pursue a career in higher ed during his undergraduate years. “I had a mentor I idolized,” he explained, “an unassuming educator who was director of the campus center. When he suggested that I could get a master’s degree for free if I did a graduate assistantship, I was blown away,” Lucci added.

The workspace and bookcases in Lucci’s comfortable office at Stafford are affixed along its perimeter, so he doesn’t sit behind a desk, but in the middle of the room, closer to guests.  Dressed in a colorful shirt and a wild-by-Vermont-standards tie, he is nothing like a stodgy academic, such as those that pontificate while quoting from obscure tomes. Among his favorite books, he  said, are such popular leadership guides as Principles, by Ray Dalio; Start With Why, by Simon Sinek; and No Bullsh!t Leadership, by Martin G. Moore.

The father of three children — two sons from his first marriage, and a daughter by his second wife, Kim, who also is an educator — Lucci, 65, has obvious empathy for what people of all ages think about relative to their careers, especially how to prepare for change.

To that point, I asked Lucci what he hopes to do if he retires from what has been his life’s work to date. 

“I’d start a food truck!” he declared.  An avid cook, he said he already has a concept and brand name which, in the spirit of protecting his intellectual property, I won’t reveal. But, as a lifelong marketer, I’ll attest it’s a very clever idea. 

If it comes to fruition, Lucci’s business would fulfill another of his life goals — to travel the country and continue as an advocate for lifelong learning. In so doing, perhaps he’ll discover — and share — even more innovative responses to the eternal question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  

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Liz DiMarco Weinmann, MBA, is principal and owner of Liz DiMarco Weinmann Consulting, L3C, based in Rutland, serving charitable and educational institutions.

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Liz DiMarco Weinmann

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