Thousands of students learn job skills at the Bidwell Training Center

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It’s called the big quit — people are quitting their jobs in droves to want something different, something better.

The Bidwell Training Center has been providing vocational training for 50 years. Horticulture students grow herbs in a greenhouse, which will then be used by cooking students who learn how to prepare food professionally.

They are among 3,000 students who learn job skills at the Bidwell Training Center each semester at no cost to them.

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The Bidwell Training Center has been providing vocational training for 50 years.

(Photo credit: KDKA)


Bidwell joined the Manchester Craftsman’s Guild on the North Side in 1972, and Bill Strickland, who was CEO for around 50 years, said that had evolved.

“We moved from building trades to technology based on what the industry was telling us,” Strickland said.

New Manchester Bidwell Corporation CEO Kevin Jenkins said Bidwell has professional advisory boards that tell them what industries need now and how Bidwell can help them.

Bidwell currently offers Culinary Arts, Horticulture, Chemical Laboratory Technician, Pharmacy Technician, Medical Assistant, and Medical Coder programs. The programs last from seven to 13 months.

They are working with local hospitals to help alleviate their staffing shortages and are exploring new areas for the future.

“We’ve had conversations on the tech front. AI, robotics, professions like that, advanced manufacturing, things we haven’t done in the past,” Jenkins said.

Bidwell works to help every student succeed. Not only does it cost the student nothing to attend, but Bidwell also has a fund to help students with other obstacles that arise, such as transportation issues, a computer or phone, or even broken glasses.

“It’s the little things that may seem simple but ultimately could be the deciding factor if you continue in the program,” Jenkins Ais said.

Everywhere you look at Manchester Bidwell there is beauty. Strickland designed the school to inspire students and show them the respect they deserve.

“It’s not accidental. It’s quite deliberate,” Strickland said. “And what we’ve figured out through trial and error is that kids do better, kids do better in an environment like this.”

On average over the past five years, at least 80% of Bidwell students graduate and at least 80% of graduates are placed in jobs.

So many cities want a program like Bidwell, and the MCG Youth Arts Program he created is a way for cities to create similar educational environments. There are now 11 across the country and one in Israel. The newest opens in Westmoreland County this summer.

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