New Trades and Technology Centre…, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from BC Gov Photos’ photostream

Clifford B. Connelly Trade School, which opened in 1930 and closed in 2004, represented a beacon of opportunity for so many Pittsburghers who aspired to enter technical and vocational fields and sought the kind of skilled training that would allow them to get the jobs that built this city, from manufacturing to metalworking. Connelly was a national model of technical and vocational education and opened new doors of opportunity to generations of Pittsburghers. Those opportunities still exist but these days it can be difficult for students seeking them to take the courses they need to build their skill sets. While many Pittsburgh Public Schools still offer technical and vocational courses, now called career and technical education or CTE courses, they are spread piecemeal throughout city high schools. I would like to work with Pittsburgh Public Schools, our trade unions, and private industry to create a Pittsburgh Connelly for the 21st century.

1. Pittsburgh VoTech

Providing some select CTE courses throughout the Pittsburgh Public Schools is a great idea. It provides students who want exposure to technical and vocational courses a chance to try out a new field or learn a new skill. However, for those student who want to specialize in a trade, it can be difficult to gain the level of skill they need from the select offerings in our high schools. Certain high schools offer certain opportunities for CTE learning but there is no school left like Connelly that provides a broad and deep exposure to a variety of CTE opportunities. As much as we have to provide students opportunities in science and math we should also provide them opportunities in engineering and auto mechanics.

Not every student wants to go to a four-year college or university, nor should we expect them to do so. This city was built by engineers, mechanics, metalworkers, and carpenters, and these jobs are still in high demand. We should provide kids the option to embark on a technical or vocational path that allows them to enter into an apprenticeship or a job right after they graduate. And we should offer it in a centralized location that provides the workspace, specialized tools and equipment, and instructors that can give them the comprehensive technical and vocational training they want. We should work with our partners in the trade unions to create a world-class public education facility that gives students in our public schools new options to chart the career path they want and that aligns with their interests.