Steel Center's name change reflects updated programs

| Wednesday, July 2, 2014, 9:02 p.m.

Steel Center Area Vocational Technical School now is known as Steel Center for Career and Technical Education.

The school in Jefferson Hills changed its name this week to reflect its updated focus.

“There has been significant reform at the school in the last three years,” said Kevin Rice, director, explaining that many schools nationwide have removed “vo-tech” from their names.

“It conjures up thoughts of limits,” Rice said of the term, while Steel Center's new designation better reflects the idea of students there becoming lifelong learners.

The school opened in 1964 in West Mifflin. Eleven school districts now provide nearly 80 percent of its $5.3 million annual budget, with the state contributing 16 percent and the federal government, 5 percent.

Steel Center's nearly 600 students from the participating districts can prepare for careers in 15 areas. The most popular courses are health assistant, baking/pastry chef and electrical construction.

The school has a capacity for 800 students, and Rice anticipates that next year's enrollment will be 615 to 620 students.

Mitchell Martino, 18, a recent graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School, has been a member of Local 66 Operating Engineers for two weeks. He began taking classes at Steel Center as a sophomore and now is at the union local's training site in New Alexandria.

As he learns, he'll earn college credits, he said. Being an apprentice for four years will lead to journeyman status and perhaps, to a management job within the union, he said.

Higher education doesn't have to be a choice between college and hands-on learning.

Rice said he is a career-technology-education graduate, with a concentration in drafting. He has master's degrees in counseling and education leadership and came to Steel Center after seven and a half years as assistant director of Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Center.

“We're creating a view of what we're preparing young adults for,” Rice said.

Destinee Simmons, a recent South Allegheny High School graduate and a three-year Steel Center student in the school's advertising and design program, designed a new logo for the career school.

The logo uses the school's new colors, blue and black, and new name. Simmons, 18, of Glassport, will attend the Penn State Greater Allegheny campus in McKeesport and hopes for a career in advertising.

The blue bands on the logo, shown as a sunburst, represent the road she took to her future, said Simmons, adding that at Steel Center, she found direction.

Students and staff chose her logo, from about 50 entries. “It was the clear choice,” Rice said.

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5803 or

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