As the fastest growing county in Pennsylvania, Cumberland County offers employment in a host of growing industries. Many of these industries require technical knowledge and expertise not taught at traditional four-year colleges, but most young people across the country are pushed towards completing a conventional bachelor’s degree. As a result, skilled trade employers find it increasingly difficult to fill positions, while many college graduates are unable to find jobs.
CAEDC partnered with Leadership Cumberland to implement an assessment survey with three local school districts — Cumberland Valley, Carlisle and West Shore. Our goal in completing this research was to learn more about the thoughts and opinions of the people in Cumberland County on skilled career opportunities. We also hoped to better understand how schools can implement career options that will create an interest in middle-skilled occupations. We received responses from 2,400 students, 940 parents, and 371 educators.
While the research indicates that a large percentage of parents and students alike believe that a college degree is necessary, the truth is that millions of jobs don’t require a bachelor’s degree. In fact, many of the largest employers in Cumberland County don’t expect applicants to hold a traditional degree, and only 33.9 percent of the county’s labor force holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. This disconnect between facts and opinions shows a clear need for more focused education on the benefits of nontraditional occupations.
So what can educators do to raise awareness of the value of middle-skilled occupations? Here are four ways that school districts and workplaces can work together to better educate students on their career options.
Align student strengths with correct career paths. Workforce development programs evaluate students’ strengths and interests to help them avoid choosing the wrong career path. Educators can use these programs to help students discover their strengths, research career options and find the best pathways to transform interests into thriving lifelong careers.
Embed information about career paths into the curriculum. Most students go through their elementary, middle and high school years without being informed about career options outside of traditional secondary education. Schools can embed career awareness — as well as information on the education required to enter a skilled workforce — into their curriculum to give students a chance to learn about available options from a young age.
Incorporate additional programs for apprenticeships and internships. Partnerships between employers and educational institutions in the form of training programs and internships can help students obtain experience that could benefit them in their future career plans. These programs can also help employers find new talent and grow their workforce more quickly.
Lobby state and federal delegation for funding. Most schools don’t have the funds necessary to implement long-term workforce development programs, curriculums or internships on their own. Parents, educators, and committees can lobby delegates to increase funding for vocational schools and programs.
To learn more about the results of our study, click here.
Connect with Us
CAEDC continues to work with South Central Workforce Investment Board (SCWIB), Cumberland Valley School District, Cumberland Perry Area Vocational Technical School, and Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC), among other organizations and educational institutions, to build the future pipeline of skilled workers in key industries to meet growth demands.
According to Fred Withum, Cumberland Valley School District Superintendent, “The Cumberland Valley School District believes that we must connect our educational programs directly to the economy. The best investment for our taxpayers is to ensure our children can obtain jobs in careers that provide family-sustaining wages.”
Contact CAEDC to learn more about workforce development initiatives and how to partner with us.