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Fry

With manufacturing on the uptick for the first time in decades, companies are struggling to find qualified technicians to keep their advanced machinery running.

Such is the effect of the “skills gap,” which is compounded by a lack of students pursuing applied technology career pathways and by experienced baby boomers retiring from the workforce.

Apprenticeships are a time-tested way to address those challenges, and Pennsylvania College of Technology has assumed a strong leadership position in developing and delivering them. Through its Workforce Development & Continuing Education department, a comprehensive partner to business and industry, the college offers apprentice instruction in mechatronics and computer numerical control occupations.

“Our mechatronics apprenticeship program provides manufacturers with the training needed to close the skills gap while offering employees long-term career opportunities,” said Thomas W. Fry, WDCE’s industrial technology specialist. “The training leads to multiple industry-recognized credentials, and apprentices can earn up to 20 credits toward a mechatronics associate degree at Penn College.”

Nowhere has the leadership role been more in focus than at the 2018 Apprenticeship Summit, held on Penn College’s main campus in May. A sold-out crowd of industry leaders and their advocates, representing 66 employers across Pennsylvania and from four other states, attended the inaugural workshop to address substantive progress in narrowing the skills gap in manufacturing.

At that gathering, college President Davie Jane Gilmour announced three major related developments: the pathway for mechatronics apprentices to earn one-third of the credits needed for a two-year Penn College degree in the field, establishment of The Apprenticeship Center on campus as a collaborative resource for state and local partners and a $576,000 grant from the state Department of Community & Economic Development to fund apprenticeships in mechatronics and CNC occupations.

“The benefits of apprenticeship programs to the companies that employ them are tangible and proven. U.S. Department of Labor statistics show that companies receive a return of a dollar and a half for every dollar spent on apprenticeship training,” she said. “Other studies have demonstrated that 92 percent of employees become more loyal to companies that invest in training them, resulting in lower turnover costs. Higher employee skill levels also have been proven to increase efficiency and reduce waste, further adding to an employer’s bottom line.”

For more than a century, the president noted, the college and its predecessors have known firsthand how technology education works in tandem with workforce needs.

“Our mission has always been to prepare graduates for the challenges and rewards of applied technology careers,” Gilmour said. “Apprenticeships extend that mission by providing valuable skill enhancement to existing workers within a company.”

For more about WDCE, visitpct.edu/wdce, email wdce@pct.eduor call 570-327-4775.

For more about Penn College, visitpct.edu, email admissions@pct.eduor call toll-free 800-367-9222.