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Steve Shelton

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Steve Shelton

Steve Shelton

2019 Civil Society Awardee Trade Institute of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA

Civil Society Awards Program

For more information about the Civil Society Awards click here.


Steve Shelton is the founder and executive director of the Trade Institute of Pittsburgh (TIP), an organization that is fully committed to working with those reentering society following incarceration as well as those who just need a “hand up” to get their lives on track.


Founded in 2009, TIP provides training and employment opportunities for ex-offenders looking to rebuild their lives as well as for at-risk high school graduates. With a growing local need for skilled workers in trades like masonry, carpentry, and welding, TIP has helped nearly 400 people gain a solid pathway to a steady job and livable wage. In the last 10 years, more than 90 percent of graduates have been hired, allowing them to provide for themselves and their families, positively contribute to society, and avoid activities that would lead to prison time.

A Pittsburgh native, Shelton has spent 45 years as a tradesman. He served in the U.S. Navy and has worked at journeyman level as an electrician, plumber, masonry laborer, bricklayer, and specialist in stone restoration. Eventually, Shelton founded his own construction company, where the idea for TIP was born after he realized that most of his talented employees were over the age of 40. Since then, TIP has gone from a 1,000-square-foot classroom to an 11,000-square-foot facility with class sizes of 18–22 students. The institute teaches students fundamentals of the construction trades, while changing the way they think about themselves.

Shelton’s work has been covered by Pittsburgh’s NPR affiliate (WESA), the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and Pittsburgh Business Times, and featured at a local TEDx event. For his work at the Trade Institute of Pittsburgh, Shelton is a recipient of Manhattan Institute’s 2019 Civil Society Awards.

Learn more about Shelton’s work at


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