Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Schuylkill Technology Center Cooperative Education Offers Creative Solution to the Skills Gap

Many organizations are currently challenged with finding qualified employees to meet their needs and that is particularly true for technical or skilled trade positions. Schuylkill Technology Center (STC) near Frackville receives multiple calls each week from companies looking to recruit from a student body for available openings. 

The STC Cooperative Education Program has been particularly beneficial in helping to fill some of those skills gap. High School students, typically seniors, earn STC credits while working in paid positions within industry, applying the skills they gained in their STC program of study to real world scenarios.

Participating students must provide their own transportation to the employment site, must obtain work papers if they are under age 18 and the employer must consent to obtaining clearances and background checks. In a typical year, roughly 18% of STC seniors participate in a Capstone Cooperative Education Experience, but this year, the participation rate is projected to exceed 25%. According to CTE Director, Shannon Brennan. Enrollment at STC has been on the rise; up 10% last school year an additional 7% this year, but we aren’t producing enough graduates, quickly enough, to fill the void created by retiring “baby-boomers” or the reduced applicant pool created by generation of the “college for all mentality” that steered students away from skilled trades in favor of four year college degrees. “The tide is changing and CTE is witnessing a resurgence, but at a slower pace than industry needs,” said Brennan. As a result, industry has gotten creative with some companies implementing internal training programs while others are expanding opportunities for student based learning programs, like STC’s Cooperative Education Program.

STC is fortunate to have a number of Industry Partners; such as Mettam Brothers, Walco, Bob Weaver Chevrolet, and Momma Millies Bakery that routinely accept STC students each semester, but this year we are seeing new organizations like Reck Teck in Tremont and Schuylkill Energy of Shenandoah sign on. “The program is a win for both the student and the employer, because students have the opportunity to apply what they are learning and further develop their skills, while employers also have the chance to evaluate the student’s skills level and actively recruit them for permanent positions if the partnership is a good fit,” said Brennan. As an example, Xavier Stultz of Girardville, who was accepted into a cooperative education placement with the Collision Repair Division of Bob Weaver in the Spring of 2019 and he still employed as a valuable member of their team, said Sue Weaver of Bob Weaver Chevrolet. Noah Brittenburg is another 2019 cooperative education student who was offered a permanent position by Walco, a metal fabricating company in Palo Alto.

Photo and Story Submitted by the Schuylkill Technology Center, Frackville

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