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Special School District of St. Louis County

SSD Technical Education:

Five decades of building students’ futures

More than 50 years ago, SSD’s mission expanded to include career and technical education. In opening a pair of technical high schools, the District demonstrated a new commitment: “to make available to the youth and adults of St. Louis County a program of vocational-technical education second to none in America.”

As the District has moved into the 21st century, programs and technology have evolved, but the mission of ensuring students are fully prepared for secondary education and beyond remains the same.

Adam Holt is the welding instructor at SSD’s South Technical High School, and the District’s 2016-2017 Teacher of the Year. Holt said that the primary responsibility of teachers in career and technical education programs is to ensure students are ready for the next step.

“It’s priceless to watch these students become successful,” Holt said. “In the long run you’re providing them with a career,” he added. 

South Tech opened its doors in 1967 and SSD’s North Technical High School opened the following year in 1968. Several of the original career programs are still being offered, including auto body and auto tech, precision machining and welding. Other programs have developed to meet the needs of the job market, including emergency medical technician, electronics and robotics, dental sciences, and web design and coding.

“These programs are very important,” Holt said. “The country was built on the backs of blue-collar workers and there’s huge demand for it. The industry is screaming, right now, for young, skilled tradesmen and tradeswomen. “

The key to the success of these programs is partnerships with local businesses, in which programs are supported and counseled by advisory boards to ensure students are well prepared to enter the local workforce.

And it’s those partnerships that can help lead students to jobs soon after graduation.

“I knew North Tech had good opportunities, so I went there,” said recent graduate Nicole Russell. “I went to four or five other programs—like construction, carpentry and graphic design—but when I went to electrical trades, it just felt like something I’d like to do,” she said.

Now Russell works as a construction laborer with Laclede Gas Company. She credits the program at North Tech for preparing her for this role.

“I would not be doing what I’m doing now if I hadn’t gone to (North) Tech,” Russell said.

As graduates like Russell launch their careers, the instructors for each of SSD’s career and technical programs know they’re making a difference in students’ lives. “When those students come back two or three years down the road and they’re talking about marriage, buying a new truck or putting a contract down on a house—I mean that makes the current day’s work worthwhile,” Holt said.

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Published December 2017

north tech sign

south tech sign

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12110 Clayton Rd, Town & Country, MO 63131  /  314.989.8100  /  314.989.8552 – 711 (Missouri Relay)

Special School District of St. Louis County (SSD) is a leader in providing special education services to students with disabilities and also provides a wide range of career and technical education programs.
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