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Union Trade Apprenticeships for Philadelphia Schools Students

The Philadelphia schools, along with other schools across the nation, are concerned with students who do not enter college upon graduation. Many are left with low-paying, dead-end jobs with little prospects for future improvements ó keeping many of those students from impoverished homes in the low-income lifestyle.

This has been of concern also for James Nevels, chairman of the state-appointed School Reform Commission that is responsible for overseeing city schools within the state, including the Philadelphia schools. Nevels believes students have been historically underrepresented in the local trade unions, and believes it is time to change that status quo.

Both Nevels and the Philadelphia schools believe that the city benefits, when graduated students are gainfully employed and productively adding to the community in a positive manner. When these students are from low-income families and are allowed to raise themselves out of the poverty level, the community benefits exponentially. Trades offer non-college bound students just the opportunity for such future growth and lifestyle improvement.

In June 2006, a four-year deal was announced between the Philadelphia schools and the Building and Construction Council (AFL-CIO). Politicians, business leaders, and educators alike are calling the deal significantly historical for the city and its future.

As part of a .7 billion construction and maintenance contract with the Philadelphia schools, the Council through its local trade unions will provide a minimum of 250 apprenticeship opportunities for Philadelphia schools students, who meet the requirements. Potentially, 425 apprenticeships for graduates could be offered over the four-year period. It is estimated that the majority of the students to qualify will be minorities from low-income families, a truly remarkable shot in the arm for the families, as well as the city. It also means the Philadelphia schools can offer these students more opportunities to learn skills that could potentially lift them out of the poverty level.

The Council will be working with the Philadelphia schools to develop the curriculum. They will host seminars for students to pique their interest and motivate them to apply for the apprenticeship programs. The Council also will monitor the results of the apprenticeships for co-review with the Philadelphia schools.

With nearly 200,000 students currently enrolled in the Philadelphia schools and about 12,000 graduating each year, this program was desperately needed for both the students and the community. Itís expected that a minimum of 62 students will enter the apprenticeship program each of the four years, though there are potentially more apprenticeships available.

This four-year deal between the Philadelphia schools and the Building and Construction Council is truly groundbreaking for the city of Philadelphia. The Philadelphia schools can offer more to their students. The students get an opportunity that may not have been otherwise available to them. The trade unions can build their memberships with young, vibrant workers, as well as build their diversity. The city gets more productive community members. It is a win-win situation for everyone.

About the Author: Patricia Hawke is a staff writer for Schools K-12, providing free, in-depth reports on all U.S. public and private K-12 schools. Patricia has a nose for research and writes stimulating news and views on school issues. For more on Philadelphia schools visit

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