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CWCTC offers students hands-on career development

| Friday, March 29, 2013, 12:36 a.m.
Southmoreland High School senior Chris Fosbrink, 17, works on a Roman Cord Arch he constructed in the masonry program at the Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Center in New Stanton. Linda Harkcom | for the Daily Courier -- for 2013 progress edition
Southmoreland High School senior Chris Fosbrink, 17, works on a Roman Cord Arch he constructed in the masonry program at the Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Center in New Stanton. Linda Harkcom | for the Daily Courier -- for 2013 progress edition
Belle Vernon junior Logan Martin, 17, practices making a pole-top rescue in the powerline program at Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Center in New Stanton. Linda Harkcom | for the Daily Courier -- for 2013 progress edition
Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Center mechantronics program students Stephen Perry (left), 19, of Hunker and Nick Melvin, 16, of Belle Vernon work on completing a robot that shoots Frisbees for the first Robotics Competition held recently at the Peterson Event Center at the University of Pittsburgh. Linda Harkcom | for the Daily Courier -- for 2013 progress edition
Mt. Pleasant Area High School senior Mercedes Price, 18, a student in the Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Center’s horticulture program, cares for plants in the school’s greenhouse. Linda Harkcom | for the Daily Courier -- for 2013 progress edition
Students who choose to enter programs offered at the Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Center get real hands-on experience in the trades they are learning no matter how large the products or materials, as seen here in the automotive collision technology and automotive technology program. Linda Harkcom | for the Daily Courier -- for 2013 progress edition
Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Center culinary arts students recently competed in the local Family Career and Community Leaders of America Cake-Decorating competition. Winners will move on to the state competition, which will be held at Seven Spring Mountain Resort this year. From left are Robert McGowan, 16, of Manor; Cassie Whiteko, 17, of Belle Vernon; and Charleen Adler, 18, of North Huntingdon. Lori Harkcom | for the Daily Courier -- for 2013 progress edition
Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Center culinary arts students recently competed in the local Family Career and Community Leaders of America Cake-Decorating competition. Winners will move on to the state competition, which will be held at Seven Spring Mountain Resort this year. From left are Robert McGowan, 16, of Manor; Cassie Whiteko, 17, of Belle Vernon; and Charleen Adler, 18, of North Huntingdon. Lori Harkcom | for the Daily Courier -- for 2013 progress edition

Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Center is one of the largest non-comprehensive vocational schools in the state of Pennsylvania.

Students first started leaving their high schools to attend the CWCTC in 1963. The purpose of the special school, then located in the Millstein plant in Youngwood, was to provide students with the opportunity to develop quality career skills and appropriate behaviors to meet the demands of business and industry. The school continues to carry on that mission.

In 1975, the school moved to its present facility on Arona Road in New Stanton, where it has an average enrollment of 1,100 students from 10 school districts — Belle Vernon, Greensburg Salem, Hempfield, Jeannette, Mt. Pleasant, Norwin, Penn Trafford, Southmoreland and Yough in Westmoreland County and Frazier in Fayette County.

Mercedes Price, 18, of Mt. Pleasant began attending the CWCTC three years ago. The Mt. Pleasant Area High School senior said she visited the school not knowing which career path she should choose. She applied for three programs and was accepted into the male-dominated field of horticulture.

“It actually chose me,” Price said. “I ended up really liking it, and I really enjoy everything we have to do in there. It ended up being something I'm really good at.”

After graduation, Price plans to attend college, majoring in horticulture and business, and hopes to one day own a landscaping design business and floral shop.

The school offers 23 Pennsylvania Department of Education-approved Career Technology Education programs of study including automotive collision technology, automotive technology, carpentry, computer-aided drafting technology, commercial art and illustration, computer and information science, construction trades technology, cosmetology, culinary arts, electrical technology occupations, mechatronics, graphic communications technology, health professions/occupations, heating and air conditioning, horticulture, industrial/residential painting, wall covering and design, machine trades technology, masonry, material handling/distributions operations, metal fabricating/welding, plumbing, powerline TCE 200+ electrical communications technology and protective services.

Southmoreland High School senior Chris Fosbrink, 17, of East Huntington Township has been in the masonry program for the past three years. Fosbrink said he chose the field after having grown up working as a laborer for a friend of his father who was a mason.

“I had a pretty much guaranteed job after school, and it's something I can always use in life,” Fosbrink said. “It's given me a lot of the knowledge to become good enough at it that I have been able to go out and make money at it in the summer.”

The students also receive their wellness and physical education instruction at the school while their other academic courses are taken at their high schools.

“Across the state we are known as a shared-time center, where the students spend half of their school day here and the other half at their high school,” business industry school coordinator Michelle DeLuca said.

Contrary to popular belief, many CWCTC students go on to college.

DeLuca said over the past three years, an average of 33 percent of the school's students went on to post­secondary education. Studies have shown that technical education students have both academic and technical skill advantages when moving on to post­secondary schools. To ensure they are giving their students the most advantages possible, CWCTC has signed Articulation Agreements with 14 local colleges and technical training schools in the area.

The school also offers adult education courses on a part-time basis in the evenings. There are 17 courses from which to choose. Classes begin in September and January.

Brad Elwood, CWCTC director, said the administration's desire for the school is to continue to improve existing programs and possibly expand program areas in workforce education to serve the school districts, students, and community by preparing all students for a positive and productive career pathway, which can include moving directly into the work force or pursuing a technically related post­secondary education.

“Tomorrow's work force will need an expansive ability to employ problem-solving skills, analytical thinking utilizing inductive and deductive reasoning, as well as a solid foundation in team dynamics,” Elwood said. “All of those skills will support their academic knowledge for their chosen career pathway as well as their technical savvy as they perform their daily tasks within a diversified global economy.

“Our mission is to guide our students in obtaining these skills to become positive and productive citizens as they drive our local, state and national economies,” he added.

Some future courses the school is considering include a heavy/highway equipment operator course, starting in its adult evening school.

“This course is very expensive due the specific machinery that students will be trained on and certainly will take time to develop,” Elwood said. “A key opportunity for this program to thrive is the Marcellus shale natural gas industry. That sector needs operators to build the transportation pipelines, along with all the ancillary jobs associated with that development.”

Another area of high interest would be to expand its logistics/warehouse management program of study.

“The soundness of that reasoning is based on the number of businesses in our immediate area, as well as the pending infrastructure improvement for the transportation industry,” Elwood said.

“Our county commissioners have identified the latter as a goal, which will provide a great opportunity for us to supply a ready-made and highly skilled work force to assist the business community in that evolution.”

Linda Harkcom is a freelance writer.

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