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U.S. Senator Robert Casey Talks Technical and Career Education Needs at Career Center

Friday, October 11, 2019 @ 09:10 AM

Posted by Ron Wilshire

Casey StudentsSHIPPENVILLE, Pa. (EYT) – Area government officials and Clarion County Career Center (CCCC) Joint Operating Committee members took advantage of an opportunity on Wednesday afternoon to let U.S. Senator Robert Casey know about their concerns for career and technical education.

(PHOTO: Sen. Casey was greeted by students Abbie Slagle (Allied Health) and Ryker Bingham (Computer Networking).  Both students attend Clarion Area School. Photo by CCCC.)

CCCC Interim Director Doug Mays welcomed Casey and the leaders to the session. Mays also acknowledged JOC member Braxton White for inviting Casey.

“We’ve had a lot of progress over the years, both at the county and the state level, but it’s taken a long time — too long – to get the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act re-authorized,” said Casey. “It took us only 12 years (tongue in cheek).  The reauthorization was due as early as 2016, but the bill didn’t pass until 2018. The implementation starts in 2018, and our state is in the midst of that now. It took a long time to get there, but it was vitally necessary that we update the law.”

Casey said feedback is needed on how to further improve career and technical education in Pennsylvania.

“We also need ideas on how we could provide more federal help, and the one concern that I have is that even with reauthorization, we don’t have enough, in my judgment, in the way of appropriation. Our state for just Perkins gets a little more than $44 million.”

D06FDA9E-83ED-450B-8E6E-AF3BE61C874B_1_201_aSen. Casey and CCCC Interim Director Doug Mays. Photo by Ron Wilshire.

White pointed to opportunities at career centers.

“I think there’s a real opportunity at our career centers,” White said. “We have them at tons of different rural communities, and one of the things that I think adults are lacking in this area is a lack of places to get post-secondary and career training. For instance, around here unless you go to DuBois or Triangle Tech, you’re probably going to struggle to find one.

“The folks that need this training to grow in the workforce don’t have the money out of pocket to pay for this stuff. We have qualified staff who could teach these programs, but I think there’s a hurdle on getting from smaller certificate programs to larger 720-hour degree programs. We need something policy-wise or appropriation-wise to help little schools like ours get over that hump. Maybe even open some technical-based community colleges in this area. Those are things that would really benefit a lot of people.”

Casey also talked about required reaccreditation for even technical schools. We have to somehow balance the independence and the worthy role that they play with the need for speed in their determination of accreditation.

“I think it’s more of the number of man-hours that we would have to put in for the accreditations,” White said. “We would almost have to hire someone to get all the stuff in place for accreditation. We just don’t have the money.”

CCCC Casey, LeadersLeaders meeting with Casey included  Ted Tharan-County Commissioner; Braxton White and Hugh Henry-JOC Board Members (Clarion); Senator Casey; Ed Heasley-County Commissioner; Dwayne Vantassel-JOC Board Member (Keystone); and David McDeavitt-Superintendent of Record. Photo by CCCC.

Dwayne Van Tassel,  a fellow JOC member, retired U.S. Navy, and current GE Transportation Contractor said he disagrees with the amount of time required for accreditation.

“Accreditors should know what they’re looking for in a program, and they should be able to come in and do it,” Van Tassel said. “I work for General Electric and go to different countries to help set up diesel engines, and I don’t spend 24 months in those countries to set up that shop and get it running. I don’t think it should take years to obtain accreditation and get you up and running. It should be that XYZ has to be met and is measurable, traceable, and you can hold them accountable.

“I also believe that it should be industry-pulsed, so we’re not teaching outdated information that when our students graduate, and they start into a career in technical education they are sent out there with the skills that are applicable.”

Mays explained the length of time required the length of time for accreditations and re-accreditations, mentioning problems related to the suspension of the Practical Nursing Program.  Salaries for qualified instructors also present challenges to career and technical education.

“Getting quality instructors in some fields would also require a large pay cut from what they are currently making in industry,” Mars said. “Some kind of subsidy to help get these teachers into the programs.  Sometimes you’re asking an employee that is making $80,000.00 to $100,000.00 to go back and make $50,000 working in a public school. Sometimes they’re not willing to make that sacrifice.”

Clarion County Commissioner Ted Tharan also highlighted a lack of high-speed Internet connections in rural areas and the challenges for education.  Casey mentioned a number of programs working on the Internet connections, but so far there are no immediate clear paths.

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