PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – For years, students have had to choose either the college track or the job track, but with advances in educational programs, they can now have the best of both worlds.

Pittsburgh is leading the way with a new program that will give back to the community in many ways.

If you want to make a difference in the community, start with the students.

The man who will take over the position of U.S. Secretary of Education was in Pittsburgh Monday. John King met with students at Westinghouse High School to talk about career and technical education programs.

“The students I talked to today, they are clear on the connection between what they are learning, their plans for after high school, the relationship between what they are learning and their ability to compete in the 21st century economy,” King said.

Westinghouse High School has several career and technical education programs in fields like carpentry, health care, culinary arts and cosmetology.

But their newest program – which prepares students for careers as police, firefighters and emergency medical technicians – has the opportunity to create a model of a career path for public safety.

“In the city of Pittsburgh right now, we are going to employ several hundred people over the next few years in police, EMS, fire,” Mayor Bill Peduto said. “We can do one of two things: we can look around the country and try to recruit and find people to fill these positions or we can partner with our schools.”

Peduto says giving students the right training will make the city stronger…

“…and give them the opportunity to build out a police force that looks more like the City of Pittsburgh because we’re not just hiring somebody based upon race, we are hiring a kid from Beltzhoover,” he added.

These programs are supported in part by a grant from the American Federation of Teachers Innovation Fund. King says they will force educators to rethink how high schools are organized.

“We’ve seen tremendous progress as a country around graduation rates,” King said. “Last year, we had the highest graduation rate we’ve ever had as a country at 81 percent, and Pittsburgh is a part of that.”

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