Students Showcase Vocational Learning To U.S. Deputy Secretary Of Education

Dec 15, 2015

One Pittsburgh Public School is using a grant from the American Federation of Teachers to train students for careers as police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians. The district showcased existing Career and Education Courses to the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Monday at Westinghouse Academy in Homewood.

The grades 6-12 school is one of five Pittsburgh secondary schools with CTE programs, boasting disciplines like cosmetology, culinary arts, carpentry, automotive body repair and multimedia production, among others. 

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education John King Jr. said, following the tour of the programs, that it’s important to educate students for both college and career.

“What about those 19 percent of students who are not graduating on time? How do we engage them? How do we have them have a sense of purpose about their education?" he said. "I believe career and technical education is part of the answer to that.”

Westinghouse senior Shakihya Ruffin said she wasn’t initially interested in any of the CTE programs, but after two years studying anatomy and learning to dress wounds and move patients in a health careers technology course, she said she wants to take care of people full-time.

Ruffin said Monday she plans to enroll at the Community College of Allegheny County’s nursing program and then transfer to a four-year university.

“We can look around the country and try to recruit and find people to fill these positions, or we can partner with our schools and create an opportunity that will give City of Pittsburgh residents an upper hand on even the suburban schools around here,” Mayor Bill Peduto said Monday during a panel discussion on vocational training. “And give them the opportunity to build out a police force that looks more like the city of Pittsburgh.”

Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers president Nina Eposito-Visgitis said preparing students for these entry level positions is imperative in a changing economy. 

Last month, the city donated a retired fire truck for Westinghouse’s Emergency Response Technology class, which is set to begin next fall. Peduto said the city will need to employ several hundred people in emergency response fields over the next few years.