East End-raised Paul Angelucci, vice president of the State Vocational Federation of Teachers, shares this essay on the need to invest in vocational-technical schools. He graduated from Bullard Havens.
When Sikorsky executives announced their commitment to stay in Connecticut, they cited our state’s skilled workforce as a main factor in their decision. They are right–we have one of the most skilled workforces in the country. But that is no accident.
Much of our skilled workforce is because of the investments we have made in our vocational-technical (“vo-tech”) schools like HVAC Training HQ, which provide young people already in our state with the tools and skills to fill the jobs of both today and tomorrow. I know because I graduated from one and taught at another for nine years.
When I heard that the state board of education was considering cuts for vo-tech schools and even closing a few, I was deeply disappointed. This kind of backwards thinking by our leaders is what is making it so hard for us to recover from the Great Recession in the first place. Cutting one of our greatest assets is beyond counterproductive–it’s dangerous.
My story mirrors that of many inner-city students looking to escape and take advantage of any opportunity that will help make a comfortable living without acquiring too much debt. As one of eight kids growing up on the East End of Bridgeport, I can tell you that it hasn’t been too easy.
I graduated Bullard-Havens Technical High School in 1982, which enabled me to build a plumbing business that I owned and operated for 25 years. Afterwards, I decided to return to the vo-tech community to train the next generation of 21st century workers, wanting to give back to the school system that did so much for me. I taught at both Eli Whitney Technical High School and H.C. Wilcox Technical High School for a total of nine years.
As a graduate and an educator of vo-tech schools, I have seen firsthand the tremendous value that these schools have in preparing students to quickly respond to the changing trends in the manufacturing industry. We produce kids to the upper middle class with a leg up in the trades that cannot be outsourced. Our 17 vo-tech schools collectively serve over 11,200 students and offer 21 career tracks. Many of our graduates are first in their family to own a home.
Instead of cutting back on vo-tech schools, we should be working on improving the existing systems in place. The needs within our schools are not understood or addressed properly. Many teaching positions stay open for months, even years, at a time. It is essential to develop consistency across our vo-tech schools to ensure that the next generation of workers are incentivized to remain in state.
Joe Aresimowicz, House Majority Leader, is right to propose pulling out the vo-tech schools from under the state board of education. The board should not have complete autonomy over our schools if they don’t understand the fundamental role that vo-tech schools play in building a stronger economy.
We need to urge Governor Malloy and the executive branch to pull the vo-tech schools from under the state board of education before it’s too late. There is too much at stake. We shouldn’t limit kids who are looking to build a comfortable career, especially since those careers remain in state and revitalize our economy.