Amplifying vocational tech schools to empower young talent and support American manufacturing


By Emily Babinchak 

In a shifting educational landscape where the allure of traditional four-year institutions is waning, vocational technical education is re-emerging as a beacon of opportunity. According to recent data from the Wall Street Journal:

  • More 18-year-olds are opting for skilled trade work over pricey college degrees.This trend is reflected in the increasing enrollment rates at vocational-focused community colleges, which surged by 16% from 2022 to 2023.
  • Fields like construction have witnessed a rise in enrollment, with a 12% uptick in students pursuing two-year undergraduate programs since 2021.

Locally, Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology meets the career and technical needs of high school students in the Bald Eagle Area, Bellefonte Area, Penns Valley Area, and State College School Districts. In addition, 1,300 adult learners annually receive training to upgrade their current skills, learn new skills, or make a career change to better their quality of life.

Vocational tech schools are attractive not only because of their employment potential but also because of their practical curriculum. In contrast to traditional universities that are beset by rising expenses and student loan debt, vocational programs offer a clear route to profitable careers. Consider the manufacturing industry, where vocational tech schools are essential in meeting the urgent demand for qualified personnel in the industrial sector because they provide students with practical skills and industry-relevant information.

A statewide program is helping to expose middle school and junior high students to manufacturing careers by engaging them with local manufacturing companies for a video contest called What’s So Cool About Manufacturing®.

The program is underway in the Southern Alleghenies in Bedford, Blair and Fulton Counties. Building on the success of last year’s contest in Bedford County, teams of students from nine schools are working with local manufacturers to explore manufacturing careers and produce a video profile of their partner company. The contest is in the Viewers Choice voting period, where viewers can check out all 9 videos and vote at Voting closes Thursday April 11th at 11:59 PM.

A partnership among Bedford County Development Association, Bedford County Technical Center (BCTC), and the Bedford County 21st Century Community Learning Center Consortium helped to launch the program in 2023 through a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Economic Development. Its success lured additional schools and new manufacturers to participate in 2024.

As vocational technical schools across the country, and here in Happy Valley, are renewing momentum, it's essential to how important their role is in shaping the workforce of tomorrow. In the coming decade, America is growing its workforce by fostering the growth of skilled workers and empowering the next generation through hands-on experiences.

VOTE TODAY! Support these students and American Manufacturing in our region!


Vote now at! manufacturing WSCAM votingopen

♬ original sound - Manufacturing Cool - Manufacturing Cool


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