Grant will expand Vocational Internship Program

Philadelphia School Partnership awarded a $435,000 grant to the Finishing Trades Institute for the expansion of their Vocational Internship Program.

The future is bright: Philadelphia School Partnership awarded a $435,000 grant to the Finishing Trades Institute for the expansion of their Vocational Internship Program. Pictured are (from left) Mayor Jim Kenney; state Rep. Martina White; Tom Mills Jr.; Dave Kipphut; Joe Ashdale, business manager, District 21 International Union of Painters and Allied Trades; Mark Gleason, executive director of the Philadelphia School Partnership; Martin McNulty, FTI director of education; state Sen. John Sabatina; and Dr. William Hite, superintendent, School District of Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia School Partnership recently awarded a $435,000 grant to the Finishing Trades Institute, 2190 Hornig Road, to expand the Vocational Internship Program.

Mayor Jim Kenney, School District of Philadelphia Superintendent William Hite, state Sen. John Sabatina Jr. and state Rep. Martina White were among those who attended the announcement at FTI’s Mid-Atlantic Region headquarters.

The Vocational Internship Program offers junior and senior high school students in public, charter and private schools a pathway into apprentice programs offered by FTI by providing professional and technical instruction and preparing students for academic, construction and life skills challenges.

The Vocational Internship Program is a one-day-per-week career education program that provides students with instruction to prepare them for apprenticeships as industrial workers. The grant will allow FTI to expand the VIP by doubling the size of the program to serve 120 students annually.

For high school seniors, the VIP will also transition from once per week to an immersive, four-days-per-week experience.

Programs offered at FTI prepare students for jobs such as welders, industrial painters/drywall finishers and glaziers.

“This is real-life learning that’s going on in this building,” said Mark Gleason, executive director of the PSP.

City government wants to increase diversity in trade occupations, and the VIP serves a diverse student body. In the last four years, 86 percent of participants have been black or Hispanic.

“This grant is a game-changer,” said Joe Ashdale, business manager for District 21, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades.

The grant from PSP will be administered over three years. Other funding for VIP comes from the school district and the FTI, which has committed to absorb a portion of the program’s operating costs annually.

White (R-170th dist.) credited the FTI and PSP for working together to create opportunities for youths. Graduates of FTI, she said, earn in-demand jobs that pay well.

“FTI does a really good job. This is a very great and unique transformational facility,” she said.

The grant was a decade in the making. The state originally made a grant to Tom Mills, a Normandy resident, former school board member and member of the MaST Community Charter School Board of Trustees. Mills sought to form a vocational-technical charter high school, but was unable to find a building, and progress was halted when he died in 2014.

In 2015, Thomas Mills Jr. heard Dave Kipphut speak at a manufacturing conference.

Kipphut, a former principal at Abraham Lincoln and Swenson Arts and Technology high schools, headed the school district career technical education program at the time.

In early 2016, Mills and his brother, Craig, spoke with Kipphut about working together to apply the funds to a program aligned with the grant’s original purpose.

Kipphut suggested the money go directly to PSP, which would earmark it for FTI.

“Our dad would be very happy if he were here today,” Thomas Mills said.

Stephon Jocilier, a Swenson graduate who is now a third-year apprentice in drywall finishing, vouched for VIP.

“It changed my life,” he said. ••