Career camp promotes Westmoreland County as place to find fulfilling job
If Rayvyn Dixon is a typical eighth-grader, then Westmoreland County leaders have their work cut out for them in convincing her to stay.
“I want to get as far from here as possible,” said Rayvyn, 13, of Greensburg, a student at Greensburg Salem Middle School.
Rayvyn was one of about 200 eighth-graders from four area school districts to attend Friday’s career camp at Westmoreland County Community College. The Westmoreland County Forum for Workforce Development hopes to make the career camp an annual event.
The idea is to plant the seed that good, fulfilling, well-paying jobs can be found in Westmoreland County and that students should stay here upon graduating from high school, said Anthony Princeton, forum coordinator.
“We’ve seen a brain drain, where our students go to schools here but then accept jobs elsewhere,” Princeton said. “This camp is to show students that there are excellent job opportunities located right in their backyard.”
Students at the career camp were able to choose from several career “pathways,” including information technology, energy, agriculture, health care, hospitality, construction, finance and business.
Sitting in the energy-agriculture-natural resources session, Rayvyn said she was interested in biochemical engineering but that she was not interested in staying in Western Pennsylvania.
“I grew up in Pittsburgh, and I really don’t like it,” she said. “The weather is horrible.”
Ryder Flick, 13, a student at Kiski Area Intermediate School, said he wants to stay in the family business — farming — but more on the mechanical side.
“It’s what I grew up doing, and it’s my passion,” he said. “I like to work with my hands and with machinery.”
Ryder said he wasn’t discouraged by the fact that his family’s farm recently sold off its herd of beef and dairy cows.
“It’s sad, but most of these farms are getting different livestock. You have to change it up some,” he said.
From energy-agriculture-natural resources, Rayvyn and Ryder went to a session on careers with Excela Health Westmoreland Hospital.
“Health care is going to be huge here in Westmoreland County,” said Westmoreland County Commissioner Gina Cerilli in remarks to the students at the beginning of the camp.
“Anything in the medical field. We have an aging population, so already we need a lot of nurses, nurse aids, technicians and doctors. Those are the jobs that are going to be here in Westmoreland County whenever you (graduate),” she said.
Cerilli said students should not limit themselves to the pathway of college or graduate school. Trade schools, community colleges and apprenticeships are equally valid options and often are more lucrative, she said.
Cerilli said she knows a 21-year-old woman who studied at WCCC to be an electrical engineering technician and is now making $86,000 a year.
“She’s making more money than me,” she said, noting that she’s 12 years older and saddled with law school debt. “These are things you’re going to have to think about. A lot of the trades — you can graduate making $50,000-$60,000 on Day 1.”
Princeton said the career camp, which repeats on Oct. 25, implements one of the core objectives of the “Reimagining Our Westmoreland” comprehensive plan, which is training and retaining workers for jobs in Westmoreland County.
“We wanted our first group of participants to be eighth-grade students, in the hopes that one of these pathways would spark an interest and they would continue to explore the skills they would need in this area throughout high school and into their postsecondary education,” Princeton said.
Area school districts participating in Friday’s career camp were Greensburg Salem, Freeport Area, Kiski Area and Norwin.
Partner companies included Kennametal, Excela Health, Westmoreland Community Action, PNC Bank, Tenaska Westmoreland, Standard Bank, InTech Solutions, Mascaro Construction, Mosites Construction and Chroma Technology Solutions.
Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Stephen at 724-850-1280, [email protected] or via Twitter .