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CPI, South Hills talk Technical Education in Centre County

It is Career and Technical Education month in Centre County, following a proclamation by its board of commissioners.

Representatives from both South Hills School of Business and Technology and the Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science & Technology (CPI) attended Tuesday’s meeting to speak about their respective schools and shine a spotlight on its students.

More about CTE at CPI

First to speak was Mary Ann Volders, Vice President of Secondary Education at CPI.

“Every month is career and tech ed month at CPI,” she joked. “But we love the opportunity in February to showcase what we do and honor our students. We’re so thankful to be here. We couldn’t be in Career and Technical Education at a better time. We just hope that we can partner with the local industries and local companies to help with the workforce shortage.”

She introduced two students, Alyssa Maller and Caleb Yecina, who spoke about their time at CPI and what they’ve gained from the experience.

“I decided to go to CPI because they made it seem very possible for me to go,” said Maller, a single mom of a three-year-old. “Working around that is a little difficult, but I knew that I wanted to start my career and provide a stable future for my son and I. They guided me every step of the way — getting financial aid, doing everything I needed to do to get signed up.”

Maller spoke about her specific program, saying her instructor was always available for guidance and support — an instructor who makes sure her students thoroughly understand the subject.

“CPI is one of the few medical assistance programs in Pennsylvania that offers dual certification. We are medical assistant certified as well as phlebotomy certified. I thought that was awesome, it gives us way more opportunities in the field to find work,” said Maller.

“Everyone at CPI is very welcoming,” added Yecina. “We’re like one big family out there.”

More about CTE at South Hills

Jeffry Stachowski, Director of Marketing and Community Outreach for South Hills, offered information on the history of South Hills.

“Fifty three years ago South Hills was started in response to a business community call for office staff that were trained a little more highly than they were currently training for office staff in high schools,” said Stachowski.

Over the years, said Stachowski, South Hills grew and added programs by following the same technique — listening to employers and building programs around those needs to better add to the workforce with their graduates.

“We’ve evolved from South Hills Business School — a school that trains primarily in accounting, management and marketing — to South Hills School of Business and Technology,” he continued. “We’re still training in accounting, marketing and management, but we’re now very heavily involved in information technology — computer networking, software development, engineering technology and diagnostic medical sonography.”

“We’re really proud to be part of the Centre County workforce development ecosystem,” said Stachowski, hopeful for the future.

Stachowski first introduced Professor Tricia Turner, the head of South Hill’s Diagnostic Medical Sonography program.

“A diagnostic medical sonographer is really a key component to the diagnostic process in medicine… We are becoming more and more the first line of defense because we’re easily accessible, not much prep is required and there’s no radiation exposure. If we can see it in an ultrasound, we’re saving our patients some money and radiation exposure,” said Turner.

More about the program

Turner explained that their students can come into the program with as little or as much experience as they can. Whether they arrive to the program directly out of high school, with a Bachelor’s degree in something else, or attend later in life, they can learn at South Hills and make a career for themselves.

She also highlighted some of the program specialties or concentrations for students to focus on. Some of their options for focus are: abdomen, OB-GYN, DVT and adult echo.

Turner spoke about the students as well, highlighting their various opportunities for jobs — citing not only local hospitals but also hospitals across the United States. She mentioned specifically having graduates working in Portland, Los Angeles and Nashville.

The other individual who spoke on behalf of South Hills was Phil Cahill, co-owner of RBA Data systems.

“I have had the privilege of being in Philadelphia every Friday as part of Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Growth program. There’s a common theme that comes out, a dire need for an educated and qualified workforce,” said Cahill.

“South Hills has played a critical role at RBA for a very long time in contributing to our workforce and our success at RBA. Our two most tenured South Hills grads today are almost at their 30-year anniversary at RBA. We have an intern who will be graduating from South Hills. We’re just one of many local employers that are the recipient of South Hills and CPI (workers),” said Cahill.

Board of Commissioners thoughts on CTE programs at CPI

Prior to adopting its proclamation, the board of commissioners offered their own thoughts on the county’s CTE schools.

“We need highly trained people who are able to do this kind of medical technology work. Coming out of CPI, we know those are students who are on a career path that can support a family. That makes a difference for the next generation, too,” said Vice-Chair, Amber Concepcion. “As a school board member for many years, one of the things I’ve come to understand about Career and Technical Education is the significant difference it can make in the course of a young person’s life.”

Commissioner Steven Dershem said, “I would be remiss if I didn’t say there’s a whole range of things. The technology and medical part are very important, but there’s also the skilled trades part of it. There’s a whole variety of things you train our folks to do. The number of folks out there to do these jobs is diminishing… we have so many homegrown individuals and it’s so important to keep our area strong.”

“Career and Technical Education is vitality important to Centre County government. We have dozens of graduates from CPI and South Hills on our staff… CTE can drastically improve your income and it only takes six months, a year, two years. It’s a quick way to enter the workforce,” said Chairman Mark Higgins.

Higgins also reminded residents that Centre County sets aside $15,000 a year for scholarships to CPI and South Hills for any course of study — funding for up to two years with very few requirements.

“We just ask that you be an emergency responder during that timeframe. Firefighter or ambulance — with the ambulance, even if you’re paid we’ll still give you the scholarship. $2,500 and that’s the only string attached,” said Higgins.

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