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Education & Business Give I-99 Corridor Competitive Edge

Learn how collaborations between business, industry and colleges and universities in Pennsylvania's I-99 region help strengthen the workforce.

By Teree Caruthers on June 14, 2016

A region’s attraction for investment is only as strong as its workforce, which is why industry, economic development leaders and education systems are banding together in Pennsylvania’s I-99 Corridor to ensure the pool of highly skilled talent in the region runs deep. Penn State University, for example, established the Learning Factory as a way for its engineering students to gain hands-on experience and impact the economic output of companies before they even enter the workforce. Students take on industrial clients and design solutions for the companies’ engineering problems. Since the Factory’s inception, more than 500 companies have participated, and students have completed some 1,800 projects. Hoping to cash in on the future crop of engineers at Penn State Altoona, logistics giant Curry Rail Services sponsored an engineering and business case competition with the victors receiving $2,500 scholarships.

Ready for Work

[infobox alignment=”right” title=”Educational Attainment Rates”](population 25 and over)
High School Graduate: 89.6%
Some College: 14%
Associate Degree: 7.8%
Bachelor’s Degree: 14.2%
Graduate Degree: 6.8%
Source: American Community Survey, 2014

The Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology (CPI) offers a variety of career and technical education programs for both traditional and nontraditional students, and provides industry-specific training for many businesses in the region. The institute also partners with regional high schools to offer dual enrollment courses leading to certification in a specific area. CPI partnered with Case Construction Equipment and Groff Tractor and Equipment to establish one of four training sites in North America that offers students training on the most current heavy diesel technology.

“Realizing the need for a trained workforce has helped our schools understand the value of career and technical education to high school students,” says Dr. Marianne Hazel, CPI’s post-secondary program manager, “In turn, CPI is able to provide a qualified workforce to the region.”

The Greater Altoona Career & Technology Center (GACTC) also partners with area school systems, offering some 30 state-approved technical programs for high school students, as well as eight full-time programs for adult students. Seven high schools in Blair County, as well as Glendale High School in neighboring Clearfield County participate in GACTC’s training programs. Students in eighth and ninth grades are guided through the program areas and possible career choices with the help of a collaborative guidance system by GACTC counselors and the schools. Due to workforce demands in manufacturing, high school enrollment in fields such as welding, precision machining, electrical technology and diesel technology have steadily increased in recent years.

Smart Collaborations

The Bedford County Technical Center (BCTC) also remains attuned to the needs of the region’s high-growth industries. “I think we have done a pretty good job of listening to our local business leaders about their needs and demands,” says David DiPasquale, BCTC administrative director.

BCTC partnered with Allegany College of Maryland to form the Center for Continuing Education and Workforce Development. The center offers workforce development training in high-demand fields, such as welding, health care, electromechanics and computer science. A matching grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission helped to pour some of the needed dollars into upgrading BCTC’s advanced manufacturing training and welding programs.

“We are always seeking new ways to assist our business partners and to help stimulate economic development in our region,” DiPasquale says.

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