CBIA BizCast: CTECS Expands Trades Career Pathways

“Students now know that trades are a viable option,” says CTECS educational consultant Brent McCartney. 

With approximately 16,000 students, 20 school sites, two aerotech sites, and 18 trade school sites, the Connecticut Technical Education and Career System is a leader in technical education in Connecticut. 

The system offers training and education in 31 different trade programs including IT, manufacturing, automotive, healthcare, hairdressing, and culinary.

“We have almost 2,000 employees working very hard to make us the premier workforce provider in the state of Connecticut,” CTECS executive director Dr. Ellen Solek told the CBIA BizCast. 

Solek, who has been with CTECS for three years, said she’s seen an uptick in students as people “recognize the need for skilled tradesmen and women.”

“I think that is changing the narrative—students now know that trades are a viable option,” added CTECS educational consultant Brent McCartney. 

Industry Partners

Solek and McCartney said CTECS is partnering with more businesses and industries, and that has been key to to getting more students interested.

“Industry has been coming around in a big way to access our students in ways that have never happened before,” McCartney said.

CTECS’ Work Based Learning program gives students the opportunity to get paid work experience while still getting high school credit. 

“We’re tapping into the ability of business and industry partnerships.”

CTECS’ Dr. Ellen Solek

There are currently about 850 students participating in WBL. 

And Solek added there is a waiting list of thousands of students who want to participate in the program.

“We’re tapping into the ability of business and industry partnerships with us to afford students that work based learning opportunity,” she said. 

Career Connections

Solek said they received feedback from business partners that it was difficult to know who to contact and how to connect with students.

“We kind of put our heads together and decided that we needed that contact point,” she said. 

“But we need more than that. We also need a place that affords students the opportunities to come in and learn more about ‘How do I apply for a job? Who do I apply to? What kind of interview skills do I need?’”

“It’s really going to be a game changer.”

CTECS’ Brent McCartney

This spring, CTECS is launching its new Career Center.

The center will have both a physical location in Middletown and an online platform. 

“It’s really going to be a game changer,” said McCartney. 

“Employers would be able to sign up, have a profile, identify schools they want to work with, and trade they would like to work with. The flip side, so will students and staff.“

‘Product of the System’

McCartney said he knows first-hand the benefit of a CTECS education.

“I am a product of our system,” he said. 

After attending Cheney Tech, he eventually returned to the system as a carpentry teacher before moving to the central office. 

“Seeing their passion really helped reinvigorate me. It really helped me kind of find my calling.”


“It changed my life,” he said. “Working with my students and showing them the skills and seeing their passion really helped reinvigorate me. It really helped me kind of find my calling.”

Solek came to CTECS after working as an educator, school leader, and district leader. 

“My days are filled with going out into the state of Connecticut’s workforce to talk about business and industry partnerships, legislative support, expanding our resources, expanding our physical facilities, and it just doesn’t get any better than that,” she said.

Removing Hurdles

Solek said CTECS is working to remove hurdles to the system for both students and instructors. 

“I think some of those hurdles entail certifications that are required by our instructors,” said Solek.

“Those certifications are important, but I think we need to explore ways that we can expedite that whole certification process.”

“We need to explore ways that we can expedite that whole certification process.”


One of CBIA’s 2024 Transform Connecticut Policy Solutions will help second act teachers who want to teach trade courses.

McCartney, who is on the state’s apprenticeship council, added that transportation is another major hurdle for students. 

He said it would be helpful to have “assistance in getting the license or assistance in programs to get them to job sites, because we have the workforce.”

The CBIA BizCast is made possible through the generous support of Google. Please rate, review, and subscribe to the BizCast wherever you get your podcasts—we appreciate your support! If you have a story to tell, contact Amanda Marlow.


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