Philly School district offers fix for lack of maintenance workers (Brief PhillyLabor Editorial Included)

By Tom MacDonald

– 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.

PhillyLabor Editorial – It should not have taken a catastrophe and a major injury to a top long time employee for the school district to finally make changes. Also, hiring outside contractors is not the answer. Hiring and training more union employees is the answer. Additionally, obviously the boiler that exploded while worker Chris Takimis was working on it obviously had a major problem. How many more boilers have similar problems.

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