Career And Technical Educators Staff Workforce
February is national Career and Technical Education Month. During this time, technical high schools and colleges celebrate their contributions to the community and the workforce. According to the Association for Career and Technical Education, “A person with a CTE-related associate degree or credential will earn an average of at least $4,000 more a year than a person with another credential — and those with credentials in high-demand fields such as health care can average almost $20,000 more a year.” During my 12 years at Johnson College, and now as its president and CEO, I can attest to the earning potential of CTE graduates, both from what employers and graduates tell the college. All across the region, leaders continually meet to develop and implement a sustainable workforce development strategy. Business owners, educators and industry leaders try to solve the skills gap and put the people of NEPA into meaningful, sustainable positions for career success. For students in Northeast Pennsylvania, there are a multitude of career training options, ranging from career and technical high school centers, to short-term certificate programs and doctoral levels of study. But, which pays dividends when it comes to affordability, access and meeting emerging workforce needs? The answer is trade and technical education — and Johnson College provides exactly what evolving and high growth industries desire. At Johnson College, we play an important role in the higher education space, filling a critical niche with career-focused, technical education. We balance industry’s immediate need with where it is going — a recipe for success. Students learn skills they can apply at their current job and at jobs yet to be created. The quality and type of education and training that Johnson College provides works, as evidenced by our graduates’ high placement rate and constant employer contact asking for more skilled graduates to fill their jobs. At Johnson College, we innovate to train our students fast enough to meet employer demands. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, “About 60 percent of college students are involved in CTE programs and more than 25 percent of the adult U.S. population participates in work-related training.” So, why are many of our region’s most profitable employers hurting for employees? Why is it that the education and skills acquired in middle school and high school do not translate into a viable, hands-on workforce? Many seem to believe that to succeed you must follow one, traditional path — a four year college degree. We are all different and success has many paths, including the two-year option. Johnson College, its students and a growing number of employers understand the value of a two-year degree. The type of education we provide allows our graduates to pursue careers that pay family-sustaining wages — right here locally. The reality is that graduates would not have to leave the area for satisfying work if they trained for the type of work that is done in NEPA. As president, I am committed to helping everyone understand that we can keep our highly skilled workforce here. Johnson College and many technical institutions across the country focus on providing quality, hands-on education that engages students and allows them to apply the skills they learn immediately to the real world of work. That is a workforce development strategy. A strong workforce means strong communities. It is good for business, for workers and the economy. With Gov. Wolf’s recent emphasis on supporting workforce development, we need to remember that in order to increase opportunity for workers we must support the training they need. We are not your grandfather’s trade school. We work hard to ensure that our communities grow and thrive. For more than 100 years, Johnson College has answered the call from industry. We’ve found solutions when jobs were taken from dying industries and we have been a partner in supporting emerging technologies. Our training has continuously ensured employment for Pennsylvanians. Workforce development is not something we just say we do; it is who we are. If any of this information is new to you, I urge you to learn more about career and technical education or come for a visit. Johnson College can prepare the next generation of students to accommodate the workforce needs of Northeast Pennsylvania by training for very rewarding and sustainable careers.