By Michael Tomlin-Crutchfield

As the City of Detroit welcomes a new wave of community development, one school is preparing its young people to help rebuild the community in which they live; place where they grew up.

For over 30 years, A. Philip Randolph Career and Technical Center has been one of Detroit Public Schools Community District’s vocational gems with a focus on construction trades. Due to systemic challenges, enrollment and programs have dwindle over the past few years. However, with the support of district leadership, industry and community partners, Randolph is coming back strong.

Krista McKinney-King, the director at Randolph Career and Technical Center, has played an integral role in its resurgence. Developing and sustaining partnerships with business and industry partners has been a priority since becoming Director in August 2016. Director King believes that changing the perception of career technical education is crucial to recruitment and increasing enrollment. Students and parents must be informed about the opportunities in the skilled trades industry. But for her it's deeper than speaking about the opportunities, she wants her students to embrace these opportunities.

"I want my students to leave Randolph with both academic and technical skills, a strong work ethic, solid character, and more importantly an entrepreneurial mindset that allows them to flourish in both the skilled trades and business industry,” said McKinney.

Beth Cole, the center’s assistant director, attributed the increase in enrollment to the center’s offerings. “We have seen our enrollment nearly double said Beth Cole, Assistant Director. “This year was the first time in several years we were able to bring back our electrical program and students have been very receptive. Overall we’ve seen an increased interest in what we offer.”

Cole, who has been with Randolph for the past nine years, says her interest in vocational education began when she was in high school. “The high school I attended was unique in that it was a day trade school which was integrated into the regular high school program. Students like myself, had the opportunity to learn a trade simultaneous with earning a high school diploma, all under the same roof.” “In addition to a formal education, programs like this offer students the opportunity to learn skills that they can use for a lifetime.”

Randolph offers students the ability to learn seven construction trades including:

  • Electrical Construction
  • Construction and Building Trades (Carpentry, Masonry, or Plumbing)
  • Heating Ventilation, Air Conditioning (HVAC)
  • Computer Aided Drafting (CAD)
  • Marketing and Entrepreneurship

Each trade is taught by a skilled journeymen or certified teacher in labs that provide a hands-on experience with hand tools and power equipment, industry-standard safety practices, blueprint reading and other valuable skills, supported by integrated reading and math resources. Students are required to complete a total of twelve State approved segments, based on standards in their area of specialty. “Once a student successfully completes the requirements they earn a certificate of completion and consideration for an apprenticeship” said Cole.

Additionally, Randolph is the only construction trades center which offers SIMLOG Simulator training with the hydraulic excavator, wheel loader, and the mobile crane. Students who successfully complete the program will earn a certificate which will allow them to pursue a career in Heavy Equipment Operations. All construction trade students are afforded the opportunity to train on the simulators. Students must successfully complete 120 plus clock hours on the machine of their choice to be eligible for certification.

“Many of our partners are potential employers and unions looking to hire students who meet the requirements and excel in the classroom. Our program is beneficial because it saves employers thousands of dollars in potential training once students are hired and equips students with the skills they need to perform tasks well,” said Cole.

Students who participate in the programs that Randolph offer also see improvements in their academic performance at their home high schools. The programs, which students attend for roughly 2.5 hours a day in either the morning or afternoon, have much smaller groups that accommodate time for one-on-one tutoring for students that need additional support.

“We don’t turn away any student,” said Cole. “We have staff that supports students with their core math skills, reading comprehension and support for students with disabilities and IEPs. Anyone who has an interest in learning and meets their core credit requirements for graduation can excel here.”

Randolph also provides resources for students to prepare for college. This includes tutoring for standardized tests, education about applying for financial aid, and career and college fairs with apprenticeship schools, colleges and universities that offer programs for advanced learning and to manage the business side of their trades.