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Pittsburgh Students to Get a Head Start onTrade Education

More than 60 percent of the 25,000 jobs available in the Pittsburgh region require specialized technical training - but only 40 percent of them require a four-year degree, according to the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and the Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board.

That’s why the Pittsburgh Promise and Pittsburgh Public Schools are offering a new trade education program for 10th, 11th and 12th grade students starting this September.

“Recognizing that…at least many of the jobs in the Pittsburgh market call for highly specialized skills and mechanical and technical training and some of the jobs call for four-year or more degrees, we thought, you know, we ought to get our high school kids on a career path as early as possible,” Saleem Ghubril, Pittsburgh Promise Executive Director, said. “And get them to see the relevance of their education and get them engaged a little bit more with it.”

The Pittsburgh Promise would give a partial advance of scholarship to participating students so they can enroll in a local college while they’re still in high school.

“As I talk to many of the region’s employers and their CEOs they tell me that they sense that there’s a skills misalignment between the skills that are now available in the region and the needs that they have within their companies,” Ghubril said. “So we’re trying to create alignment here by creating career paths that begin in high school but lead toward those jobs in very specific areas.”

He said these areas are refrigeration, heating ventilation and air conditioning; energy, health careers, advanced manufacturing and information technology.

According to Ghubril, the students could earn between 12 and 24 post secondary credits and 2 to 4 workforce certifications. They can also earn a driver’s license and have the opportunity to make connections with the region’s employers.

“When they graduate from high school, they have the choice of pursuing more education and using the balance of their Promise scholarship or going straight to work and being able to earn a decent living,” Ghubril said. “And many of the jobs that are right now vacant, available, but require more skill than maybe the region’s workforce currently has.”

The maximum scholarship students can earn from the Pittsburgh Promise is $40,000. The cost of the classes will be deducted from the scholarship and the remainder will be saved for post-secondary education.

This September, students will be able to choose to take the refrigeration, ventilation heating and air conditioning or the health careers class.

He said students can also choose from information technology, advanced manufacturing and energy starting fall of 2015.  In 2016, they are aiming to double the class’s capacity so that about 500 students can enroll.