Daquan Moss said he always knew that he wanted to work with his hands, but he didn’t know where to go after high school to further his ambitions.

He thought about enrolling in an architecture program, but that wasn’t quite right for him. He wanted to have his hands on the actual building projects, not drawing up diagrams and renderings. 

Eventually, a mentor introduced Moss to the Pittsburgh Jobs Corps Center in Lincoln-Lemington, where he immediately found his calling.  

“I came here, went to the Building Construction Technology [program], and I fell in love,” he said. “This is the one thing that I’ve always wanted to do my entire life, and now I’m doing it. I just hope this program can bring me further into that.” 

Moss was one of numerous students in local trade and technical programs who got to speak with U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and acting U.S. Labor Secretary Julie Su on Tuesday as they visited Pittsburgh to highlight the returns of the Biden administration’s investments in workforce training. 

The secretaries first toured the $43 million Center for Education, Innovation and Training that recently opened at the Community College of Allegheny County’s North Side campus as students learned how to control robotic arms and monitored and troubleshot machines to correct problems. 

Mayor Ed Gainey and Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Wayne N. Walters, who were among several civic leaders who joined the secretaries at CCAC, said the investment at the community college would strengthen partnerships that are already in place.  

Pittsburgh’s Youth Civic Leadership Academy, for example, allowed city students to learn about how the government functions and what type of jobs are needed to make it run, the mayor said. Because of a partnership with CCAC, students who completed the program got three college credits and a work stipend. 

“Coming out of high school, not everyone knows what they want to do, including myself,” Gainey said. “But when you go to this program and you get exposed to different things, you begin to think differently.”

Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor Julie Su and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona tour CCAC’s Center for Education, Innovation and Training. (Department of Labor)

Walters pointed out that investing in education is investing in the future of a region, as today’s students become tomorrow’s workforce. These collaborations, he said, are key to ensuring a strong future for the city.  

“Children don’t want broken promises. They want promises kept,” Walters said. “If you’re not aligned, you deal with a lot of broken promises. And then they don’t believe you, and then they don’t trust you, and if the children don’t trust you, then why would they stay in Pittsburgh?”

Both secretaries said the collaborations they learned about in Pittsburgh were unique but could be applied elsewhere.

“[It’s] really exciting to see how K-12, two-year colleges, industry partners and four-year colleges do come together on behalf of students, and it leads to success not only for the students but for the community,” Cardona said.

He said the Biden administration selected Pittsburgh as one of five workforce hubs because of the collaboration among K-12 schools, higher education institutions, trade unions, the city and other entities.

At the Jobs Corps Center later in the afternoon, Su told a crowd largely made up of trade union representatives that the workforce training collaborations that are being developed in Pittsburgh could be implemented around the country.   

“Pittsburgh is a workforce hub – It’s one of five across the country that President [Joe] Biden has named – because we believe in what is happening here,” she said. “We believe that you are all about creating good jobs and opportunities for every community.”

Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor Julie Su participates in a discussion at CCAC’s Center for Education, Innovation and Training. Also pictured, from left, Allegheny County Executive Sara Innamorato, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey. (Department of Labor)

Andrew writes about education and more for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at agoldstein@unionprogress.com.

Andrew Goldstein

Andrew writes about education and more for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at agoldstein@unionprogress.com.