Penn College Serves Vital Workforce Needs for Twin Tiers

Published 02.06.1999


Technology is exciting, but the breakneck speed at which it is applied in the workplace is creating a serious gap in knowledge and skills in this region and across the country, according to Dr. Edward (Ted) Nichols, associate dean of the North Campus of Pennsylvania College of Technology.

While the nation's economic strength is linked to new and emerging technologies, many business and industry leaders consider the shortage of skilled knowledge workers to be their greatest concern. At the same time, the earning power of those workers without advanced skills is declining. Dr. Nichols said this "skills gap" makes training and education especially in technical areas a necessity.

As Pennsylvania's premier technical college, Penn College has established a reputation for educating graduates with the kind of technical skills and abilities that employers are looking for. Graduate placement rates top 90 percent, and scores of business and industry recruiters visit the College each year to interview and hire students, Dr. Nichols said.

"Parents, teachers and students are recognizing the value of career-oriented, technical education and the important role it plays in this new economy," he declared.

Technical jobs are reported to be the fastest-growing and best-paying segment of the labor market. Nichols said a two-year technical degree is needed to enter most of the largest and fastest-growing technical fields and can provide, on average, higher salaries than many (except those in the professional ranks) employing men and women with four-year degrees.

As the chief administrator at Penn College's North Campus, near Wellsboro, Dr. Nichols is working to address vital needs and opportunities across the Twin Tiers.

Twin Tiers employers routinely look to Penn College as a source for technically skilled, knowledge-based employees. In the past year alone, more than 20 Southern Tier companies have conducted on-campus interviews or participated in the College's Career Expo in Williamsport. That number doubles when figures from the Northern Tier and the College's North Campus which primarily serves Pennsylvania's Tioga, Potter and Bradford counties are added.

Because nearly 20 percent of the Southern Tier's labor force comes from Pennsylvania, Penn College and the North Campus can have a significant impact on the region's economy, Dr. Nichols said.

Penn College's Technology Transfer Center and Continuing Education Center takes a lead role in planning and coordinating contracted services and customized training for business and industry served by the North Campus. According to Dr. Nichols, services to business and industry in the Northern Tier have increased by 50 percent over the past year.

Main Campus/Williamsport
With more than 100 bachelor, associate and certificate programs and more than 5,000 students, Penn College has seen considerable growth over its 85-year history. In 1999, the College is celebrating a "Diamond 10" anniversary marking 85 years of instruction on the Williamsport campus and 10 years as an affiliate of The Pennsylvania State University. Prior to affiliating with Penn State in 1989, the College had been Williamsport Area Community College (1965-89) and Williamsport Technical Institute (1941-65). Prior to the founding of the technical institute, instruction was offered through Williamsport Area School District.

Today, academic majors are offered through the schools of Businessand Computer Technologies, Construction and Design Technologies, Health Sciences, Hospitality, Industrial and Engineering Technologies, Integrated Studies (general studies, human services and communication-related majors), Natural Resources Management and Transportation Technology.

North Campus/Wellsboro
Penn College's North Campus in Wellsboro has served the Twin Tiers since 1983 with credit and noncredit programs and other services designed to meet regional needs. With an average enrollment of approximately 150 degree-seeking students and 200 enrolled in noncredit training, the North Campus provides personalized education and training opportunities. The local campus also provides a link to Penn College's main campus for young people and adults who live and work in the Twin Tiers.

The North Campus offers general education courses, as well as course work in accounting, business management, computer information systems, human services, office technology and more. Course work can be applied to Penn College degree programs or transferred to other accredited colleges and universities, as well as distance learning.

The campus is equipped with the latest in computer and distance-learning technologies, including state-of-the-art computer labs and Pic-Tel and V-Tel video-conferencing for group learning and one-on-one consultation. A full-service library, equipped with Internet access and other sophisticated research software, is open to the public.

Noncredit, continuing-education courses and training services available through the North Campus include American Management Association certification in financial management, customer service, and administrative assistant as well as computer training, health sciences/elder care, and culinary arts/hospitality courses. Customized training offered either on campus or at a business location is available in computers, communications, technical math, team building, supervision, hydraulics and pneumatics, power-train, welding, lumber grading, rigging, statistical process control, and computer controlled machining.

In some cases, clients may qualify for training and education support from economic development groups and agencies. The North Campus partners with such organizations as local chambers of commerce, school districts and education councils, as well as the Tioga County Development Corp., Valley Economic Development Association/ Education for Industry Partnership, Northern Tier Regional Planning and Development, Northern Tier Industry-Education Consortium, Industrial Resource Centers and others.

Adult Basic Education, General Education Diploma and workplace literacy courses also are offered to the public through the College's Link-to-Learn "SkillsNet" project which uses the P.L.A.T.O. Computerized Learning System to bring Internet-based instruction to a dozen partner organizations across 17 counties in Northcentral Pennsylvania.

The North Campus also assists area school districts in Tech Prep/School-to-Work, and provides community access to "America's Career Kit" (Job Bank, Talent Bank and Learning Exchange). Campus facilities also are made available for small group and corporate business meetings and conferences. The newly established University of Scranton Small Business Development Center serves Tioga and Bradford counties from the North Campus.

Twin Tier residents as well as businesses and industries benefit by having local access to Pennsylvania' s premier technical college through its North Campus. For more information, call (570) 724-7703.