Infrastructure Week is a chance for labor, industry and policymakers to sharpen public understanding of the investments critical to the nation's future, and AFT President Randi Weingarten helped kick off the mid-May observance by visiting a New York City public school that is deeply connected to this effort—Brooklyn's Transit Tech Career and Technical Education High School. At Transit Tech, students can get hands-on experience exploring a key component of the nation's infrastructure, a modern urban rail system.
Joined by an array of labor, civic and business leaders, Weingarten visited Transit Tech on May 15 to celebrate this nationally acclaimed public school as an example of effective career and technical education that works, and to thank students there "for being so engaged in your studies, for seeing the connection between education and work.
"I couldn't be prouder to be here at the beginning of Infrastructure Week," she told students, teachers, staff and a visiting delegation that included Sterling Roberson, UFT vice president for CTE high schools; Patrick Smith, chief officer of the Strategic and Business Partnerships for New York City Transit; and other business, community and political leaders. "With literally trillions of dollars needed in infrastructure, we need to find ways to create that funding— and that skill level to build for the future."
Weingarten visited classrooms and work bays in a school that not only lays the strong, traditional foundations of education but also prepares students for high-paying careers that include rail car maintenance, transit electronics, computer engineering and cybersecurity in a mass transit system. The essential links between career and technical education and the city's transportation infrastructure are built on strong partnerships between education, labor and industry, the AFT president observed, and the approach is establishing a proven track record: Many of the school's graduates will build careers in the city's Metropolitan Transportation Authority, where aging in the workforce is a concern, and also go on to higher education. It's a testament to the solid, well-rounded education provided by well-designed programs, and to the more than 90 percent of CTE students who graduate from high school, Weingarten observed.
It's impossible to separate the current deficits in the nation's infrastructure from the need for a skilled workforce that can build and maintain it, and that makes CTE programs like Transit Tech nothing less than a national imperative. "We have to make sure all these schools are attractive to kids, and that takes revenue and support," Weingarten stressed. "We need the federal government to 'walk our walk' instead of working to defund public schools."