Dream Matches Real-World Need Addressed by Penn College

Published 09.17.2018

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The dreams of many 9-year-olds transform them into adult superstars. What kid hasn’t dreamed of making the pivotal play to win the big game, belting out a tune to adoring fans or basking under the bright lights of Hollywood?

Trevin Allen.

No disrespect to athletes, rock stars and actors, but the fourth-grader’s dream – described for a class assignment – actually matches reality’s need: a need addressed by Pennsylvania College of Technology.

Trevin’s aspirations connect applied technology education to rewarding careers in the skilled workforce, which is grappling with a shortage of qualified professionals. His words are timely and impactful beyond his classroom at Bloomsburg Memorial Elementary School.

For a class assignment, 9-year-old Trevin Allen described his dream of working in plastics at SEKISUI SPI with his father, Lucas, a graduate of Pennsylvania College of Technology. Trevin’s mature goals prompted an invitation from the college, where he experienced various facets of applied technology. From left are Shannon M. Munro, vice president for workforce development; Tom F. Gregory, associate vice president for instruction; and Trevin and Lucas Allen.

“It’s interesting to see a person his age articulate what his aspirations are in the future and the need to get an education and that those education pieces are critical to work in whichever career he chooses,” said Shannon M. Munro, vice president for workforce development at Penn College.

“My dream is to work in the design lab of SEKISUI SPI like my father,” Trevin wrote. “I want to learn how to design Kydex thermoplastics.”

Headquartered in Bloomsburg, SEKISUI SPI is a worldwide leader in thermoplastics and a major supporter of Penn College. Trevin’s father, Lucas, is a technical service specialist for SEKISUI SPI, focusing on physical property testing.

Lucas graduated from Penn College in 2001 with a building construction technology degree. Following several years as a contractor, he transitioned to the plastics field by accepting an inspector/packer position at SEKISUI SPI in 2012. Attending workshops offered by the college’s Plastics Innovation & Resource Center helped Lucas advance to his current position. That dedication to continuous education has resonated with his son.

“My dream is to go to college and earn a degree to learn how to work on a computer. I will have to work hard and stay focused,” Trevin wrote.

EDITOR'S NOTE: A video documenting Trevin Allen’s visit is available on the college's YouTube channel.

“I was touched by what he wrote,” said Munro, who heard of Trevin’s dream when Ronn Cort, SEKISUI SPI’s president and COO, shared the story with her. “I thought it would be good to invite Trevin to campus to show him what he put to paper.”

Proudly sporting a name tag identifying himself as a “tomorrow maker,” Trevin spent a recent morning experiencing various areas of the college, known as a national leader in applied technology education.

He witnessed the possibilities of computer-aided design by interacting with architecture students working on their projects. A stop in the college’s new makerspace, The Dr. Welch Workshop: A Makerspace at Penn College, prompted him to manufacture a boomerang from a piece of wood with the aid of a bandsaw, drill press and sander.

“The boomerang project required critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and the importance of those skills in applied technology education cannot be overstated,” Munro said. “Employers are looking for those skills, as well as hands-on education, for their current and future workforce.”

According to the Manpower Group’s 2018 Talent Shortage Survey, 46 percent of U.S. employers are struggling to fill open positions as recruits don’t possess the required skills. Penn College is doing its part to shrink the skills gap, thanks to its 96 percent graduate-placement rate.

“Most of our programs here at Penn College, our students have multiple job offers before they graduate,” Munro said. “In many cases in the plastics program, some of them have opportunities in their junior years.”

Penn College is one of just six institutions nationwide offering plastics degrees that are accredited by the Engineering Technology Accreditation Commission of ABET. And the college’s PIRC is a recognized leader in plastics education and training.

Trevin’s succinct reaction to the college’s plastics labs was “cool,” whether he was touching the powder used for rotational molding, admiring a disk made from an injection molder or watching the thermoforming process.

“It was amazing how much he knew already about the plastics industry, obviously from his dad,” said Brennan Wodrig, PIRC program manager. “He’s like a sponge. He likes to grab at anything, and he relates to it somehow.”

Olivia C. Ferki, a plastics and polymer engineering technology major from Richboro, assisted Wodrig and Christopher J. Gagliano, PIRC project manager, with Trevin’s tour of the plastics facilities.

“It is so, so important that someone as young as Trevin has that opportunity to consider plastics,” she said. “I was in high school before I knew anything about the plastics field.”

Trevin’s familial connection to SEKISUI SPI also heartened Ferki. She received a $7,000 Student Workforce Development Scholarship from the company.

“The scholarship meant the world to me,” Ferki said. “Knowing that there was a company willing to support me in the industry was really important. I’ve pushed myself harder because I’m so grateful for what they have done for me.”

According to Munro, SEKISUI SPI has done much for the college.

“In addition to scholarships, they provide material donations, support workforce education initiatives offered by the PIRC, and annually sponsor the PlastiVan program’s visit to campus, which exposes middle and high school students to the rewarding opportunities available in plastics,” she said. “They also hire our graduates from multiple disciplines.”

As one of those graduates, Lucas Allen was humbled by the opportunity to return to his alma mater with a tour geared to his son’s interests.

“It was great to bring Trevin back here. He’s leaps and bounds above what I ever was at that age,” Lucas said. “It’s awesome that he has this desire to follow in my footsteps and one-up me, hopefully. That’s every parent’s dream.”

Trevin’s friends should be prepared to learn about the exploration of his dream at Penn College.

“He loves to talk. The stories and experience, I’m sure he’s going to be excited to relay, which may spark an interest in someone else,” Lucas said.

At the end of his tour, Trevin confirmed his dad’s prediction.

“It was the greatest day, and I’m going to tell them every last thing that I did,” Trevin said with a wide smile.

Penn College is a national leader in applied technology education and workforce development. Email the Admissions Office or call toll-free 800-367-9222.