Old name + New tech = School/jobs pipeline

David Kipphut shows visitors the new Center for Advanced Manufacturing at Ben Franklin High School in Philadelphia.

David Kipphut shows visitors the new Center for Advanced Manufacturing at Ben Franklin High School in Philadelphia.

Somewhere, Ben Franklin is smiling down over his bifocals.

As the new school year began in Philadelphia and the rest of the country this week, the renowned founding father and legendary Philadelphian would swell with pride, impressed by the new training center opening up at the high school that bears his name.

Franklin High, located on north Broad Street in the Spring Garden section of the city, officially opened the Center for Advanced Manufacturing on Tuesday, an educational initiative designed to revive the city’s glaring need for skilled workers trained for manufacturing positions. The inaugural class of about 150 freshmen and sophomores christened the new vocational training facility, which includes brand-new laboratory equipment, robotics, milling equipment and 3-D printers on Tuesday, beginning the program that hopes to bolster a starving but still highly relied upon industry in the city. The Center is a $6 million project that is still being completed (computers for the labs hadn’t yet arrived), and is aimed to focus on training for four main concentrations. These four different career and technical education (CTE) program options are welding, electromechanical technology, precision machine tool technology, and electronics. Come January, an additional four programs are expected to be added to the fray. Students will specialize in one of the eight disciplines and receive nationally recognized credentials upon graduation- which will hopefully provide a pipeline to jobs in their home city.

With 700 skilled manufacturing jobs currently vacant, it’s a connection necessary to forge. The city needs properly trained individuals who can specialize in these industries and fill such jobs- which still pay an average of $50,000 per year in salary. David Kipphut, head of Philadelphia public schools’ Office of Career and Technical Education, helped engineer the project from the outset, ensuring that there was unfiltered communication between the school and potential future employers. “Before we even had a plan, we met with business people and talked about what they needed from the district in terms of preparing their future employees,” says Kipphut. Advisory committees consisting of volunteers from various manufacturing industries were assembled to help with input. They helped guide Kipphut and others through essentials such as classroom layout, program designation, and credential requirements.  

Possibly the best part, or icing on the cake, is the benefits provided to the children and communities, even more than the city’s economy or workforce. Ben Franklin High is a magnet school that is 95% minority students, often drawn from low-income neighborhoods riddled with crime. Franklin himself- a great philanthropist, among his many acclamations- would also have pride as a civic pioneer.

I mean, the guy’s already got a bridge named after him.


One Response to “Old name + New tech = School/jobs pipeline”

  1. Bravo! Years ago, Philadelphia’s Board of Public Education started the Academy of Applied Electrical Science. Concerned about the city’s youth underachieving, they put economically and culturally disadvantaged teenagers into a class in Thomas Edison High School. Mornings, dedicated teachers gave STEM and relevant liberal arts subjects.

    Afternoons, insured pupils did non-hazardous tasks, under close supervision, on real projects. Bell Telephone and Philadelphia Electric (utility) provided jobs and token pay. With this little extra attention, these assumed “throwaways’ turned into overachievers.

    Today the paradox is gross unemployment vs. a severe lack of skilled labor to fill the jobs. The new FREE hands-on Academy of Building Conservation is being started for returning military veterans seeking additional skills for gainful civilian employment.

    A knowledgeable team of craftspeople able to CORRECTLY execute professionals’ conservation plans on time, on budget and with respect for original design and fabric, is essential to reach goals and profit.There is a huge untapped market for conserving and energy-upgrading the millions of existing properties erected prior to 1940, and still viable.

    Needed: Aside from start up funds, are rent-free classrooms, as before at Edison.

    Can we work with you on recreating this eminently successful program?

    Gersil N. Kay IESNA, AIA/HRC
    Building Conservation International
    215 925 2004

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