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JANIYA BEASLEY puts on a firefighter uniform, as Beasley is part of the Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Career and Technical Education program. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

It’s a safe bet that when an Italian guy complements your lasagna, you’ve done a good job. Thus, the culinary students in Pittsburgh Westinghouse’s Career Technical Education program can hang their chef hats, and aprons, on Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto’s endorsement of the meal they catered at the school’s recent forum and celebration.

Among those who joined in recognizing the program’s success included Westinghouse Principal Bernard Taylor Jr., CTE Director Angela Mike, and Pennsylvania Deputy Secretary of Education Matthew Stem, who moderated the Feb. 6 discussion at Westinghouse High School. The panel discussion focused on how government, industry and communities can foster growth in the CTE program and similar programs.

Stem noted that even with the successes of Westinghouse’s six programs and the nine others housed at other schools and facilities, the state has seen only a 2 percent overall increase in CTE enrollment. However, enrollment by women is up by 7 percent.

All agreed there is a need for greater promotion of CTE as a career path, and that while entities such as the A. Phillip Randolph Institute, the University of Pittsburgh, Community College of Allegheny County, the Pittsburgh Promise and various trade unions are partnering with the district to create a seamless pathway from high school directly to family-sustaining careers or to higher education, more such partnerships are needed.

Mike said the district has more than 500 students enrolled in CTE who will graduate with industry certifications and dual-enrollment credits for college. Some of them, she said, can serve as marketers for these programs.

“We have a student who was in the finance program at Carrick. She’s now a forensic accountant making over $100,000 a year,” said Mike to the crowd at the event. “We have students from our carpentry program that are in the Carpenters Union, and a recent graduate from the automotive program at Brashear went straight into a position at No. 1 Cochran making $18 dollars an hour.”

PPS STUDENTS who are part of the CTE program, serving guests, including Westinghouse principal Bernard Taylor Jr., during the CTE program celebration, Feb. 6. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

Westinghouse also houses the district’s public safety program, which Mike said has greatly benefitted from the partnership with the city, which had donated equipment used by detectives, emergency medical technicians and paramedics, as well as firefighters—including a fire truck. The program also features courses taught by command staff from the police, EMS and fire departments.

Some of those students were also on hand, demonstrating what they’ve learned, showing off equipment and talking about how CTE has given them career options they might never have considered. Sixteen-year-old Janiya Beasley said the public safety program, in particular, firefighting, is fascinating and useful.

“This program teaches you a lot,” Beasley said. “If you see someone who needs help, you can help them, like now. You learn a lot and you get a lot from it, too.”

Lundyn White and Dajanae Glover, both 17, said they want to go into EMS “to save lives.” For Glover, the motivation was personal.

“When I was younger, my father died from a gunshot wound—so my goal is to save people, and to help people out,” she said.

Deonquay Wilson said he got into the culinary program because of his grandmother.

“She’s a great cook,” he said. “Everything she does is hand-made, she does a lot of things you wouldn’t believe people could do in the kitchen and it makes all our food taste so amazing—it inspired me to just start cooking.”

His friend, Isaiah McIver, said the program is eye-opening.

“It changes the way you think about things you would do professionally,” he said. “It’s an exciting experience.”

And throughout the program, lunch and tour that followed, Anya Meggett, a 17-year-old senior from Wilkinsburg, chronicled the event with her video camera—not for the school, for her portfolio. She’s finishing up her CTE program in entertainment technology.

“I’d like to be a director and technical director. This program is important because it’s exactly what I want to do when I graduate,” she said. “It’s a big push—I already know what to do and how to do it. You have no choice but to learn every position in entertainment technology, so I’m already advanced in all positions because I’ve been there for three years.”

 

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