Vo-Tech Schools Build Stronger State Economy

Paul Angelucci
Paul Angelucci

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.



  1. Paul: I agree with everything you say about the vital need in Connecticut for the strongest and most well-funded vo-tech education systems. I have many friends who are prospering and who have created many good jobs by way of the businesses they have founded as a result of their vo-tech training. I have many friends who made great careers in the manufacturing sector because of their vo-tech training. (My maternal grandfather migrated to Bridgeport from Pennsylvania when the coal mines scaled way back and there were mass layoffs of miners. He attended Bullard Havens at night, became a tool and die maker, and had a great and long career at Metro-International Harvester. He bought a house and lived very well as a vo-tech educated tradesman.)

    I’m not sure we need a separate agency to oversee our vo-tech programs however. I think what we need is a totally revamped state Education Department under a new administration and GA that is elected on a platform of commitment to education and economic development based on a high-value, advanced-manufacturing sector. Connecticut, a small state with no hope of an agriculture-based economy or a tourism-based economy (a very pretty and quaint state, but no “magnificent” vistas, national parks, national monuments or other exceptional tourist draws outside our two casinos), has few places for extensive economic development other than advanced manufacturing. And we already have a great head start in that direction. And unparalleled manufacturing history and culture.

    Yes: Vo-tech is a vital part of Connecticut’s future. These current idiots running the state Education Department need to be routed back to the private sector and replaced with people who come from education backgrounds, including the technology and vo-tech areas. In the meantime, we should play into efforts to save and upgrade vo-tech education funding in Connecticut.

    Good, and timely, essay, Paul!

  2. Jeff, I appreciate and agree with your comments.

    Thank you, Paul Angelucci.

    Wonder if the CCJEF v Rell case may affect vo-tech’s future in our state. If so, to what degree?

  3. I was once a young person “just out of high school” and while it took me a few years to enter college I needed a JOB. With no marketable training or work experience, where do you start? Charm and the gift of gab doesn’t get you far. I started off as a very skinny teenager working as laborer on construction sites doing the grunt work. But I watched how other “skilled” workers did their jobs, and got the tools and B.S.’d my way into and out of a few jobs. And along the way gained skills and experience. Trade Schools have been a staple in England and other European countries for decades.

    College or University isn’t for everyone nor does it need to be. Many young people leave College with a Diploma not worth much more than the paper it’s printed on because they have no real experience in life. The USA education platform needs to adopt a much more robust program to train young people while in school paid for by tax dollars, but there need to be jobs out there for them to gain a foothold towards their future.

    Coupled with support from “Industry” like Sikorsky and others would create more planned for “opening positions.” It has been done and can be done more fully. That requires a more robust economy and growth. Which is why it is so important to have the right leadership in place and the right shared goals across the board.


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