Local Leaders Planning to Bridge Gap Between Jobs and Skilled Workers

CLEARFIELD – The gap between jobs and skilled technical workers has been getting bigger over the years, and some local leaders are planning to change that.

The push in the last several years has been for graduating students to go on to a four-year college, leading to a shortage of trades people, said Fred Redden, executive director of the Clearfield County Career and Technology Center.

The challenge is to change the mind-set that college is necessary to get a good paying job.

In fact some recent graduates of the electrical program completed a union apprenticeship and landed jobs making up to six figures, Redden said.

There are some other programs at the school where the students are employed immediately following the completion of their studies, including machinists and truck drivers.

The blue collar population of the area is almost gone, Redden noted, while industry and factory jobs are making a comeback here.

“We need to entice the top third of students to enter the trade force,” he said.

Creating a school to industry partnership is key with a goal of providing high paying jobs.

Redden is working with local industries to ensure that the CCCTC is providing the right training for jobs right here in Clearfield County with the collaboration of Workforce Solutions of North Central PA and Clearly Ahead Development.

A new heating and refrigeration class was added to supply trained workers for TAFCO, which is expanding with a new plant in the Industrial Park. They will have 40 to 100 new jobs, Redden said.

Local industry is already investing in their future employees by giving the CCCTC discounts on various machines so they can then train students to operate them.

“We have a group of people who want to focus on these partnerships,” Redden said.

The adult education programs are also having a high rate of employment.

After completing a four-week $4,500 course, most of the graduates of the truck driving program can “walk right into jobs,” Redden said. In fact, companies are asking the CCCTC to “send us everyone you have.”

Superintendent of the Curwensville Area School District, Ronald Matchock, agreed that there are some programs for which they can’t get enough students. This includes computer programming.

There is a drastic void of people going into the skilled trades while the income in these fields has increased, he said.

These are some of the highest paying jobs in the area, but they require some training.

Matchock said their school is taking the fifth graders to the CCCTC so they can be exposed to these trades. Many of these classes have 100 percent employment, but we have a hard time getting people interested, he added.

He mentioned the powdered metal jobs, which are in the area and reiterated that because of TAFCO the new heating/air-conditioning program was added, but had low enrollment.

“It’s hard to convince parents that children don’t need to go to college,” he said.

Dave Schultz of Continental Carbonics in Clearfield, who is the plant manager, said they are anticipating the skills they will need in the next 18 to 36 months. Mainly this would be the increasingly growing field of robotics and robotic programming.

“No schools here teach it,” he said.

They are working with local educators to begin to offer these courses and get students interested so that when the jobs are offered, they have qualified applicants.

“We would like to see people stay in the area,” he noted.

Rob Swales, chief executive officer of Clearly Ahead Development expressed, “there is a need and opportunity for private sector companies to partner with educational and training institutions.

“Local companies can utilize various state and federal programs to assist internship and apprenticeship opportunities to help grow their business.”

Any businesses interested in learning more about job training programs, internship and apprenticeship opportunities are encouraged to contact Clearly Ahead Development at 814-768-7838.

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