Celebrating 40 years of a school where you get your hands dirty

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 Orleans Technical Institute's electrical trade students celebrate the school's 40th anniversary [Image courtesy of Orleans Technical Institute]

Orleans Technical Institute's electrical trade students celebrate the school's 40th anniversary [Image courtesy of Orleans Technical Institute]

A Philadelphia institution of higher learning is celebrating its 40th anniversary. But the school isn’t an “Ivy” or “Little Ivy.”

This weekend, Orleans Technical Institute is holding an open house to celebrate its 40th anniversary. But the school isn’t among the handful often named as Philadelphia fixtures.

Over the decades, the school has helped tens of thousands of workers in the Delaware Valley gain technical training start careers in hands-on professions.

“These types of jobs cannot be sent overseas,” said Debbie Bello, director of admissions at Orleans. “We need people here that are skilled laborers and it’s something that they can start doing as soon as they graduate.”

She said students get technical training so they can jump from class into real hands-on professions.

“For instance in my carpentry classroom you learn how to build a house. Which is just unbelievable. A two-story house that you walk into this classroom and you see it in front of you. It’s just fabulous! The curriculum is written so that last day you feel confidant you can go out into the work field, you can start working.”

Bello said graduates often credit the training offered in six trades with changing their lives.

Like Desert Storm veteran Ramero Falana. The Germantown native who moved from a job as an auto mechanic to one renovating houses. He said teachers at the school really cared about helping students learn. Falana said without his Orleans Tech building maintenance degree, he wouldn’t have been able to make the switch.

“They would teach you plumbing first, then they would take you through the electrical phase, and then they would take you into the carpentry phase or the painting phase. It literally covered every aspect of a home!” he said.

Falana now has his own business buying Philadelphia houses at auction, fixing them up and then renting them out. He said his former tech school classmates have been essential to his success.

“Some of the people I graduated with have been some of my hardest and most loyal workers,” he said.

The school is operated by the non-profit JEVS Human Services. It started in 1974 with English language classes for Soviet immigrants and clerical skills for homemakers. It now offers classes in six trades and is holding an open house this weekend in Northeast Philly to celebrate the anniversary.

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