A visit to the Susquehanna County Career and Technology Center in Springville last week by a deputy secretary of the state Department of Labor and Industry highlighted the center’s role in meeting the demands of today’s changing employment landscape.
Eileen Cipriani, the deputy secretary for workforce development, is responsible for implementing Gov. Tom Wolf’s $30 million PAsmart program which aims to prepare students and workers to get sustainable employment.
“What we’re trying to do is develop a more cohesive connection between the business community and education because when we talk to businesses we hear ‘We can’t find skilled workers,’ ” Cipriani said during her Friday, Oct. 5 visit.
“Our response is, ‘Tell us exactly what you need because we need to go back to the education community and tell them, ‘This is exactly what they need in workers.’ They need to be active participants in developing the workforce,” the Wilkes-Barre native said.
Cipriani visited instructor Bruce Castelli’s Carpentry and Cabinetmaking class and spoke with 18-year-old Brian Traver who was putting the final touches on some foldable wooden chairs. (The Pennsylvania Association of Career and Technology Education Conference recently awarded SCCTC’s Carpentry and Cabinetmaking class with its Program of the Year Award.)
Cipriani also visited food management instructor Chef Dave Dunster’s “A Touch of Class” and “Serfass Solarium” restaurants and their fully equipped kitchen where Eric Lobacz of Harvey’s Lake was cutting carrots.
In Ray Ingaglio’s welding class Cipriani watched as Jarrett Tyler, 18, and Marshall Robbins, 17, both of Elk Lake, fashioned donated horseshoes into figurative snowmen and pumpkins for sale as part of a fundraising campaign to provide tools as gifts for the 30 students preparing to graduate the school’s welding program.
“This fundraiser is helping us buy them more gifts,” explained welding instructor Heather Charles.
Cipriani took time to speak to students in Karen Killian’s practical nursing class about the dire need for trained medical staff.
“The population of people working in healthcare is aging out,” Cipriani told them. “We’re having trouble attracting folks into healthcare. There’s a massive amount of jobs in healthcare so it’s a really great time to be going into healthcare,” she said,
Many healthcare employers are also willing to pay for new hires to continue their educations on to R.N., R.N. specialties, and even four-year degrees, Cipriani said.
Cipriani’s visit follows on the heels of Republican gubernatorial contender Scott Wagner’s Sept. 27 visit to SCCTC. Cipriani has also made similar visits to other technology centers statewide.
In recent years, a lack of skilled workers in the trades has made an education in those fields more important. That, in turn, Cipriani explained, has made schools like SCCTC more important than ever.
“They have a key role in filling those jobs. Everybody needs some sort of what we call post secondary education credentials, whether it’s your four year degree, a two year associates degree, or your certifications to be able to get to the workforce. We need to fill our workforce now. We have a lot of skilled jobs that don’t require a four year degree: your trades, manufacturing; even a lot of the health care disciplines only require a two-year degree. Programs like this and community colleges can be very flexible to the needs of the local community.”
SCCTC, part of the Elk Lake School District, serves as a regional technical and vocational school for current and returning students offering a variety of courses in addition to those mentioned above including criminal justice, automotive technology and cosmetology, as well as many others.
SCCTC also recently opened a business incubator offering local emerging businesses training and technical services under a federal department of agriculture rural business development grant.
Local school districts served by SCCTC include Elk Lake, Blue Ridge, Mountain View, Montrose, Susquehanna, Lackawanna Trail and Tunkhannock.