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Host: Scott LaMar

Technical Education for the 21st Century

Written by Rich Copeland - Producer, WITF's Smart Talk | Feb 12, 2017 3:00 PM
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The days of getting a high school diplama and obtaining a high-paying job are over.  Almost all jobs require some post-secondary training.

In an era of the "gig economy," a constantly evolving workforce and multiple generations crippled by student debt, educators are re-thinking the role of a four-year college degree as part of the American educational structure.

America has had a skilled labor shortage for much of the last two decades and it only could get worse.  Careers in occupational therapy, construction, automotive technology, manufacturing, plumbing and nursing pay well for the most part there aren't enough workers with the skills and educations to fill them.

Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology exclaims on their website "Technical skills are the new currency. Do you have a plan to acquire them without breaking the bank? Get on the path to success in the new economy!" The school trains students in programs including architectural technology, computer and systems network administration, masonry and many other skilled trades.


Dr. Peggy Grimm, Administrative Director at Dauphin County Technical School / Vic Rodgers, Associate Provost for Workforce Development at Harrisburg Area Community College / Laurie Grove, Director of Career Services at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology

Laurie Grove, Director of Career Services at Thaddeus Stevens Technical College; Vic Rodgers, Associate Provost for Workforce Development at Harrisburg Area Community College, Central Pennsylvania's Community College and Dr. Peggy Grimm, Administrative Director at Dauphin County Technical School appear on Monday's Smart Talk to discuss preparing Pennsylvanians for meaningful and sustainable careers.

Dr. Kevin Flemming will be speaking at the Lancaster County Convention Center this Wednesday at 6:30pm; the topic of discussion will be (Re)Defining the Goal: The True Path to Career Readiness in the 21st Century.  Information about this event can be found at the Thaddeus Stevens website:


- Personally I think it is unrealistic to think you are going to recruit AP students to do third shift welding jobs. My husband actually graduated from Stevens Trade as a machinist. He ended up going back to school to get an engineering degree because he was frustrated with just building machines that others had designed when he could see the design flaws. Getting to design the machines turned out to be what he wanted to do and it required a 4 year degree.

I also wonder what you are doing to recruit women to these traditionally male dominated fields (ex. machinist, welding, electrician, plumbing). For example, it was stated that cosmetology is one of the most popular fields and I would guess that is probably where the majority of female students are enrolled, but I wonder how many who graduate with that particular training are actually making a career of it and are able to make a living at it? Big difference between the money that can be made cutting hair vs. fitting pipes.                                                                                                                    - Lisa

- Shouldn't industry be prepared and expected to spend time and resources on training recent grads? Why should the recent grads be ready to hit the ground running as if they had been working for 1 or 2 years? I think industry seems to be asking a lot more of education than perhaps is realistic? Unless there are significant internship work study programs industry needs to be responsible for training recently educated grads.                        - Amy, Lancaster

- As a retired Technology and Engineering Education teacher who has spent over 40 years in the field, I wanted to add my thoughts on the subjects of why recruiting women is difficult, why these areas are struggling to have students fill their fields and finally, how the mind set of parents, educators and students need to change to see the big and emerging picture.

The big and emerging picture is one of learning to live in this technical world through opening our eyes to the abundant and diverse fields of science and manufacturing that are required to create saleable products and important discoveries. Many people and parents feel the areas of engineering and science are important but discount the fact that they require the experiences of understanding materials and their properties as well as their malleability to create products. Sure, I want my kid to make the 'big money' but, I do them a disservice but not allowing them to experience the real heart of what their field will require.

As a teacher, I feel it is still important to have good Technology and Engineering Education programs at both the middle and high school levels for students to discover the 'minds-on, hands-on' learning environment. I call this experiential learning and the importance of such learning helps students decide what they may be passionate about doing the rest of their lives. To take this away from education is to take away the opportunities of discovery for students.

Secondly, half of the population are women, with minds!! If you haven't discovered this yet, I am a woman. One who entered a very male dominated field in the '70's and pushed hard to recruit women into the shop. I still continue this endeavor though Technology Student Association (TSA) one of the Pennsylvania Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSO). The vocational schools in our area participate in HOSA, SKILLS and FBLA to name a few. FFA and TSA are included in theses CTSO's. In PA-TSA we work to include gender friendly competitions in engineering, leadership and manufacturing. With over 1600 students competing each year at our state conference, I would say that it is a 50-50 split, boys and girls.

And finally, a paradigm shift is a must if we are to grow our manufacturing base again. Students of today must be problem solvers in the future gathering as many resources for success as possible. To limit only kids that 'are good with their hands' to these career and technical fields will be our demise. Minds-on, hands on. All students should experience what career and technical education has to offer.                                                                                                     - Judy Hawthorn, PaTSA Board of Directors, Secretary


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