Education key to growth, Westmoreland County economic development official says
Workforce developers need to work with school districts to create a pool of employees with the skills to meet the growing demands of manufacturing jobs, a Westmoreland County economic development official said on Wednesday.
“We need to take a whole new approach to workforce development. Without integrating K (kindergarten) through 12 ... we won't come to a workforce solution,” said James Smith, president of the Economic Growth Connection of Westmoreland.
More than 225 business, government and community leaders attended the Greensburg-based organization's annual membership meeting at St. Vincent College in Unity.
To learn what manufacturers need, the Economic Growth Connection has partnered with the University of Pittsburgh-Greensburg's Center for Applied Research to survey manufacturers in the county to determine “their true worker needs,” including the existing workforce and future needs, Smith said.
“We need the viewpoint of the manufacturer ... because if we can't supply them with a qualified workforce, they will leave,” Smith said.
The survey is being distributed to employers, and the organization hopes to have results within six weeks, Smith said. The Economic Growth Connection has a database of 500 companies in the county.
After the results are compiled, Smith wants to hold a “workforce education summit” in April or May with school district superintendents, career and technology center directors, guidance counselors, workforce development agencies, business and political leaders, Westmoreland County Community College near Youngwood and all other higher education institutions.
“We can begin the process of evaluating our workforce needs. ... The idea would be to lay out the issues that exist with the looming workforce crisis, and to put strategies in place to begin to address the crisis,” Smith said.
A workforce education summit “is an excellent idea,” community college President Daniel Obara said after the event.
“We need to encourage more students to pursue technology education and to create pathways from the high schools and career and technology centers to the community college and other higher education institutions,” he said.
To train students for advanced manufacturing jobs, WCCC plans to open a 72,000-square-foot Advanced Technology Center this summer at the former Sony Technology Center in East Huntingdon. The technology center will have an expanded technology component, said Patrick Gerity, WCCC vice president for continuing education, workforce and community development.
The success of the technology center will require the right training programs; effective marketing to students, parents, teachers and guidance counselors; and support from companies to ensure that students who complete the program can get jobs to begin meaningful, substantial careers, Smith said.
For several years, the community college's program for training workers in the region's booming natural gas exploration and production industry has grown beyond training for drilling-related jobs into other aspects of the industry, Gerity said.
The Eastern Westmoreland Career and Technology Center in Derry Township is developing a pilot program with the Derry Area School District that will place students on a career path in manufacturing as early as the sixth, seventh and eighth grades, said Marie Bowers, administrative assistant. The Pathways Innovation Network, which will involve job shadowing by students and school visits by company representatives, will begin in the 2014-15 school year, Bowers said.
“I think it is the way to go,” said Bowers, noting that high school graduates will be able to earn eight college credits from WCCC and a certificate in applied industrial technology.
Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Women to stand trial in theft of drugs from Norwin Pharmacy
- Budget work ahead for Southmoreland School District
- Lineup released for Greensburg concert series
- Ligonier Valley YMCA marks start of 32,000-square-foot expansion
- Southmoreland School District focused on growing population, boosting achievement among students
- Technology, teaching style set district apart, Mt. Pleasant Area administrators say
- Unity man’s bar pays homage to Latrobe’s Rolling Rock
- Hempfield to give $13K to Greensburg Hempfield Area Library
- Arnold man admits to stealing former football star’s identity