The Northern Tier Regional Planning and Development Commission (NTRPDC) held a full commission meeting at the Susquehanna County Career and Technology Center (SCCTC), after which they enjoyed a lunch prepared by the school’s culinary arts students before a tour of the facilities. For many, it was the first time they had had an opportunity to see everything that SCCTC has to offer.
“I’m glad that they (SCCTC stafff) were able to give some of our full commission a chance to see what goes on there,” said NTRPDC administration support specialist Nancy Kulick. “They offer such a wide variety of different classes to students.”
Those at the head table included NTRPDC executive director Kevin Abrams, SCCTC executive director Alice Davis, Bradford County commissioner and board chair Daryl Miller, Susquehanna County commissioner and board officer Betsy Arnold, Tioga County commissioner and officer Roger Bunn, and Keystone College, and new Keystone College president Tracy Brundage, who also serve as the key speaker for the event.
Brundage spoke primarily about the rapidly changing demographics of those who will be graduating from high school over the next decade and seeking higher education, as well as how the needs in the workforce have shifted to requiring skilled workers right out of school.
“I am finding that I am facing a strikingly different environment than my predecessor,” said Brundage. “It’s not ‘business as usual anymore.’ The college model is broken.”
One of the most challenging dynamics, she continued, is that the last Baby Boomers are set to retire at the same time the “birth dirth” generation – the dramatic decrease in the number of those born after the onset of the 2008 recession – reaches college age in 2026.
The changes, she noted, are impacting policies, workforce and education. “Businesses are facing a talent shortage,” Brundage related, especially when looking for those with highly-specialized skills in healthcare, technology, data analysis, a wide variety of trade skills and soft skills. The latter includes attitude, communication skills, creative thinking, work ethic, teamwork, networking, time management, and conflict resolution.
Brundage indicated that she is dedicated to helping 150-year-old Keystone College evolve to meet these needs through collaborations with other learning institutions and identifying the careers that will help students meet their goals.
“After spending 10 years at Penn College, I’m very familiar with technical education, so it was great to get the tour and talk to all of the faculty,” Brundage remarked. “They’re doing really good things and getting the students real-world experience and the needed certifications to get them into the job market.”
A number of SCCTC students have enrolled at Keystone to complete their educations, Brundage continued, and it is among her responsibilities to making sure that Keystone’s educational pathways and schools like SCCTC are properly aligned.
The college recently received a pre-apprenticeship grant to partner offer dual-enrollment programs with local schools and offer industry-recognized credentials. One such partnership includes a partnership with Lackawanna Trail High School, through which students there can earn college credits and Child Development Associates (CDA) certification. From there, they can finish obtaining their associates degree from Keystone.
Kulick referred to the SCCTC tour as an eye-opener as to how things are evolving in Susquehanna County to fast-track students to family-sustaining careers. “They’ve really got it going on there. I can’t get over how they build houses and then sell them…and recondition cars for needy families,” she stated. As to the latter, Kulick added. “They teach the students the importance of giving back to the community.” She was also impressed by the pride with which the teachers showcased the areas of SCCTC dedicated to specific programs. “Every single one of them seems to love their job.”
The Northern Tier Regional Planning and Development Commission serves Bradford, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga and Wyoming counties, providing resources to help businesses and entrepreneurs, local governments and non-profits, and job seekers meet their goals to succeed in Pennsylvania’s northern tier. To learn more about the agency, interested readers can log on to www.northerntier.org.