The Baby Boomer Generation is retiring and the skills gap continues to grow and be a challenge to our workforce needs. Not only is the gap widening, but the shortage of skilled workers throughout Pennsylvania is on the rise.
Dauphin County Technical School, along with career technical centers across the Commonwealth, is focused on preparing motivated high school students to assure that all students graduate career ready with the skills and certifications required to meet the needs of the workforce and achieve their professional goals. In addition to preparing skilled workers to meet and address the growing skills gap in construction, Dauphin County Technical School is also addressing present and future workforce needs in the areas of: manufacturing, health sciences, public services, transportation, visual arts and information technology.
Each school year, approximately 300 freshmen arrive at DCTS’s comprehensive facility to begin their preparation for a career and/or post-secondary education. Students rotate through 25 programs of study, where they explore the programs to help them make more informed career decisions. Students are placed in a program of study they select so that they can focus in a particular area and work toward their first certification.
Once students have completed two years of training in a program of study, they are able to apply to the Work Based Learning Program, which aligns students with businesses that partner with the career technical school to provide students the opportunity to apply their skills and knowledge on the worksite. This allows students to gain valuable insights within the work environment while working with experienced mentors. Work Based Learning Program experiences include internships, job shadowing, cooperative education, clinical experiences and pre-apprenticeship programs. Students must qualify for these opportunities; and after being interviewed and accepted, their first-hand experience in a real-world career field begins. These work-related opportunities provide students with skill development and knowledge growth as they apply their skills and fine tune their 21st century skills, professional communication and professional work ethic.
By partnering a student and an employer, prior learning is made relevant for students by connecting the curriculum to the workforce. These work experiences increase technical and employability skills and keep student education real and relevant as they build relationships. Students are able to connect with community professionals as they develop a network early in their career and learn about high-skill, high wage, in-demand careers. These realistic experiences assist students to make informed decisions about career and education options.
Additionally, the partnership established between the school and employer connects career and technical program instructors with potential guest speakers, field trip opportunities, placements for future work-based learning students, and it brings the world of work directly to the students. These partnerships assist employers in increasing the pool for potential full-time, trained employees and provide a training program that stresses employability and problem-solving skills, as well as good work habits. Most importantly, Work Based Learning students arrive on the job with the work skills employers need, which reduces the time and cost of training a new unskilled employee.
Work Based Learning student assignments are designed to encourage student growth through reflective practices, such as a weekly writing assignment focused on how a student applies an industry skill and develops their communication. This provides a forum to share trends in business and industry and provide insights regarding the student’s ability to communicate effectively in a professional environment. This feedback is vital as it provides insights and impacts of what is taught at the school – what is working, what is not, and what needs to be changed to address the needs of the present and future workforce.
Dauphin County Technical School and other career and technical centers offer opportunities for students to explore their options, gain skills, and earn certifications, which provide the tools for students to make informed decisions regarding their careers. Together with industry partners and outstanding mentors throughout Pennsylvania, career and technical education is focused on bridging the skills gap.