Butler County Education Summit to address local workforce issues

| Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The first Butler County Education Summit will bring together leaders from education and industry to discuss problems facing today's students and workforce.

“There's so many jobs in the region that are left unfilled either because kids don't know they exist, aren't trained properly or there is no way for them to get trained properly,” said Kierston Hobaugh, results and performance director of the Butler County United Way. “So we want to try to bridge that gap somehow.”

The event, hosted by the United Way of Butler County and sponsored by XTO Energy, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil, will be held from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 15 at the Butler Health System Auditorium, 1 Hospital Way, Butler.

“Wherever we can, whatever community we're in, it's really important to be supportive of our educational system and to get schools and teachers the tools that they need to prepare students,” said Karen Matusic, public and government affairs manager for XTO Energy. The company provided a $5,000 grant to finance the summit.

Representatives from Slippery Rock University, Butler County Community College and local school districts, as well as business industry leaders from Allegheny, Butler, Beaver, Lawrence, Westmoreland and Armstrong Counties are invited.

“The private sector should be very involved and help where they can to help raise standards in schools and give teachers what they need to train the employees of tomorrow,” Matusic said.

One issue the summit will address is whether secondary and post-secondary education line up with the skills regional employers expect.

Stacey Burk, program development coordinator at Butler County Vocational Technical School, said students in the vo-tech program train for specific career paths, making it easier for them to know what employers want.

Students in traditional academic programs have a harder time knowing what skills and qualifications potential employers want.

“I just don't think that the communication is there,” said Burk, a member of the United Way's Education Impact Council.

The summit will feature presentations and four roundtable discussions about technology, early childhood education, career guidance and industry in schools.

Students from area high schools will take part in all roundtables to lend their perspectives, and two students, Knoch High School seniors Natalie Corbin and Maddilyn Thoma, will speak about hurdles they've faced in preparing for life after graduation.

“We can talk all we want, but if it's not actually helping students, and if we're not seeing what the student is doing and feeling, then we're not going to get anywhere,” Hobaugh said.

The summit is the first step. Hobaugh said she hopes officials can follow-up with community and student-lead focus groups.

“The goal is to come up with critical messaging for the community as a whole, as well as ... plans as to where do we go now and what do we need to do to put this in place,” Hobaugh said.

For more information, visit www.butlerunitedway.org or email Hobaugh at KHobaugh@butlerunitedway.org.

Rachel Farkas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-779-6902 or rfarkas@tribweb.com.

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