Employers know that tomorrow makers are molded at Pennsylvania College of Technology.
That is evident in the college’s 97.3% 2017-18 graduate placement rate. It is proven in employer attendance at its twice-annual Career Fairs, which continue to break records. And it is lived by individual students who come to Penn College with a career dream and later become leaders in their industries and communities.
Penn College continues to adapt to workforce needs through innovative programs that prepare students to transform tomorrow.
Apprenticeships help to alleviate skills gaps
Pennsylvania College of Technology’s ability to equip individuals with the skills they need for open jobs has been proven for over a century. Employers begin recruiting many Penn College students months – even years – before their graduation.
With the economy growing, even more positions are available for those highly skilled graduates, prompting employers to supplement their recruiting efforts with a look inward, to help current employees develop new skills.
Penn College is helping companies to do that through its Apprenticeship Center. In its first three years, the college has worked with industry to develop five registered apprenticeships – with several more in various stages of exploration. Apprenticeships combine on-the-job training under a skilled mentor with related instruction.
Apprentices become state-certified journey-workers by demonstrating they are proficient in an industry-accepted list of competencies. Each year of an apprenticeship represents the skills that would typically be mastered in about 2,000 hours of on-the-job learning. In addition, apprentices must complete 144 hours of related technical instruction each year.
Penn College works with employers to develop and implement registered apprenticeships. It provides the required related training, coordinates and assists with the development of all required materials, and it handles the record-keeping work that is required for apprentices to become certified journey-workers. The college provides flexibility, offering instruction on location, on the college’s campus, or via interactive remote delivery at the time that works best for each employer.
The Penn College Apprenticeship Center’s “consortium” apprenticeships allow small to midsize companies – who may have as few as one apprentice in a specific skill area – to join with other companies to share costs.
“For many small to medium-sized companies, apprenticeships are out of reach on their own,” said Christopher P. Ray, executive director of business development for the college. “They don’t have the manpower to dedicate to something like that. Our ability to bring companies together and lessen their individual administrative burden is critical.”
In 2018-19, Penn College offered five registered apprenticeships:
- Industrial manufacturing technician
- Computer numerical control precision machinist
- Mechatronics technician
- Infrastructure maintenance technician
- Emergency medical technician
The college also offers pre-apprenticeships, which introduce participants to career sectors – such as advanced manufacturing or health care – rather than specific occupations.
“Our vision is to get people exposed to occupations in a sector,” said Shannon M. Munro, the college’s vice president for workforce development.
Apprenticeships provide a pathway to a Penn College degree, and some are already taking advantage of that, Ray said. For example, completing the four-year mechatronics technician registered apprenticeship translates to credits toward a Penn College degree.
“This positions Penn College well to respond to the skills gap from multiple directions,” Munro said. “Apprenticeships help employers to upgrade the skills of their current workforce, but I don’t know a single company participating in apprenticeships that is not also looking to hire our graduates.”
“In this economy, pressure is growing for companies to expand,” Ray added. “They have new positions and want Penn College graduates, but they have to hire people who don’t already have the exact skills that they want. So they need to upskill their workforce. We as a college fill both of those needs.”
Policymakers support apprenticeships
Initiatives at both the state and federal level support the growth of apprenticeships to help close skills gaps. In 2016, Pennsylvania created an Apprenticeship and Training Office within the Department of Labor & Industry. The department is working to double the number of registered apprentices in the state by 2025.
The college has received a $576,000 grant from the state Department of Community & Economic Development and two PAsmart grants, totaling $177,050, to help alleviate costs for employers to conduct apprenticeships.
In June, Penn College and New Jersey Institute of Technology were awarded a $7,996,530 federal grant to develop Modular, Industry-Driven Apprenticeships Strategies in advanced manufacturing fields. Penn College was the only institution in the state to receive funding as part of the U.S. Department of Labor’s awarding of $183.8 million in grants to 23 academic institutions and consortia. The goal is to further expand apprenticeships and address the skills gap.
“MIDAS will enable us to scale apprenticeship programs nationally,” said Munro, adding that the grant’s goal is to train 3,200 apprentices between the two institutions. “Receiving this grant will allow us to considerably expand the number of apprentices and companies we serve.”