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Pennsylvania Prepares Students for the Workforce

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf made a visit to the Eastern Center for Arts and Technology Monday morning to talk about the importance of a career technical education and the many career opportunities that it can provide students.

“I think this kind of thing is really important,” said Wolf. “Kids need to grow up understanding that there are lots of options.”

The governor toured the facility, which serves ninth through 12th grade students in nine school districts including: Abington, Hatboro-Horsham, Springfield, Bryn Athyn, Jenkintown, Upper Dublin, Cheltenham, Lower Moreland and Upper Moreland. Wolf spoke with students as they gave demonstrations of their various fields of study including veterinary science, construction, welding and nursing.

“One of the questions I was asking was ‘How soon, how early should we make clear — that if you’re a young woman and you’re looking at your options — how soon should we make you aware that construction is one of the things you ought to be thinking about?’ I talked to someone who’s in construction and she said ‘third grade,’” said Wolf. “And I think that’s what the literature is saying. We ought to be doing a better job at that. That’s what I want to do and that’s what I think is so great about this place. They’re saying these are the options.

“It’s not just college it’s not just one thing. You have a whole lot of different options. You choose. You’re going to have to make these choices.”

There are more than 80 career technical centers in Pennsylvania that offer a combination of classes and hands-on learning in programs approved by the Department of Education. Thousands of students earn industry credentials or certifications for local jobs in high demand, so they graduate on a path for success.

Wolf’s PAsmart initiative is investing $70 million over two years to expand science and technology education, apprenticeships and industry partnerships, including $10 million for career technical centers. The Eastern Center for Arts and Technology will invest its share of the funding to create a robotics and automated technology program starting next school year. The Wolf administration also awarded Eastern a competitive equipment grant of $8,813 to help purchase three welding machines, according to a press release.

“We are honored that Gov. Wolf chose to tour Eastern today,” said Dr. Cathleen Plesnarski, executive director, Eastern. “We appreciate his support of career and technical education. Career and technical education provides cost-effective ways for students to explore, clarify and pursue their career goals and opens multiple pathways to success for our students.”

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, who also took the tour of the school with Wolf, praised the instruction and career opportunities available to students.

“I thought it was a really wonderful opportunity to show the governor what we’re doing here at Eastern,” said state Sen. Maria Collett, D-12th Dist. “Because I want him to see the hands-on experience that these kids are getting, that they’re workforce ready, that they are going to go on to enter a workforce and maybe go on to some more educational opportunities, so that they can broaden further what they’re doing here.”

Collett told the story of a female student she met who was studying welding and how she had not intended to enroll in the program when she first came to the school but soon fell in love with the trade and couldn’t be happier. “We saw so much dedication from all of the students that we met today and that’s a really exciting thing to see in young people,” she said. “They’re finding things they love, they’re excelling at them and we’re getting them workforce ready.”

“This is terrific. These young students are off to bright futures and it’s because of the education they’re getting here at Eastern,” said state Rep. Todd Stephens, R-151st Dist. “I hear all the time from manufacturers that they don’t have enough welders, that they can’t find enough quality welders. And these young students are off to great careers and it’s a wonderful foundation for them to build upon.”

“I’m so glad I came,” said state Rep. Mary Jo Daley, D-148th Dist. “I’ve been wanting to take a tour of one of the Montgomery County technical schools and this was a really good opportunity. I think it looks like (there are) really good, strong programs that address the needs of a variety of students. I was really excited to see the women in some of the construction fields and welding that you don’t normally think of women. I think it’s important to get the word out that these jobs are not gender based.”

Art Levinowitz, vice president of the Public School Boards Association and school board president of Upper Dublin School District and Eastern, thanked Wolf for his visit. “Career and technical centers are a wonderful opportunity for so many of our young men and women attending high school to seek a different venue, rather than staying at their high school all day,” he said. “For some students it just is not the appropriate setting to sit behind a desk all day long at a high school. It’s better to come over to Eastern and seek an opportunity to be more hands on and potentially pursue a career when they’re done.”

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