Philly School district offers fix for lack of maintenance workers

Listen
Philadelphia school district is facing a shortage of tradesment to service its boilers. (Yuuri/Bigstock.com)

Philadelphia school district is facing a shortage of tradesment to service its boilers. (Yuuri/Bigstock.com)

Prompted by a January boiler explosion in a Philadelphia school that injured a worker, City Council held a hearing on maintenance in city schools.

The explosion prompted an inspection of boilers in Philly schools;  98 percent passed, but 58 percent need minor repairs.

That’s a challenge, said Robert Hunter, the school district’s director of maintenance.  His maintenance team is more than 40 percent smaller than it was in 2006 because they cannot find qualified tradesman.

But Hunter has a plan.

“Our goal is to establish an apprenticeship training program to try bring out youth in from the high schools to get into the trades early enough to go through and develop an apprenticeship where they would come out as a certified apprentice,” he said. 

“So we are looking at options that way to build a pipeline of workers to bolster those numbers up.”

For now the district is using outside contractors to supplement its own workers.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.