Support Rises for Vocational and Technical Education

Member Group : Center Square

(The Center Square) – Boosting funding for career and technical education programs stands out among the governor’s budget priorities this year as legislative leaders signal joint support for the request.

During a Democratic House Majority Policy Committee on Wednesday, lawmakers heard from vocational leaders about the impact the programs have on students’ future careers – and their pride.

“We have a couple areas of success,” Millcreek Township School District Teacher Kyle Bucholtz said. “What we’ve focused on is creating a future talent pipeline for our students. We’ve been able to take students that have graduated and enter apprenticeships and then get hired on at companies.”

The administration suggests spending an additional $17 million on vocational programs as part of its initiative to create jobs and keep graduates in Pennsylvania.

Last month, Senate Republican leaders agreed that growing career and technical education opportunities for residents made sense – even as they expressed wariness over the administration’s other spending priorities.

Teachers say the state’s money keeps programs on the cutting edge, particularly through equipment upgrades, that ultimately contributes to successful career placement for students.

It also encourages students to develop pride in their achievements, Bucholtz said.

“(We’re) improving the culture of manufacturing here in our high schools,” he said. “We’ve been able to take that model that you see in sports – when the basketball team or football team is wearing their jerseys down the hallways … our students have that same amount of pride walking down the hall as they do a football team or a basketball team.”

Building pride in what students accomplish, and instilling in them a sense of ownership in running the program, Bucholtz said, is “huge.”

Equipment grants, too, have been a priority for vocational programs. Joseph Tarasovitch, principal of the Erie County Technical School, described what they’ve been able to do.

“Students are getting the opportunity to do things that they want to be able to do at a career and technical center that they see out there in the real world,” Tarasovitch said.

ECTS received a $60,000 equipment grant for the 2021-2022 school year, using the money to buy a laser engraver and a resin 3D printer for the school’s drafting and design program.

“We’re able to upgrade and stay competitive with what students need to learn for the working environment,” Tarasovitch said. “The more students can really work on the things that are in industry is so valuable to them getting a real job out there.”

Much of that funding comes from donations or local funding. Lee Burket, director of the bureau of career and technical education with the Pennsylvania Department of Education, noted that about 80%-85% of CTE funding comes from local sources.

“CTE is crucial,” Burket said. “It’s crucial to ensuring that businesses can find those employees that have the skills that they are looking for.”

Staff Reporter

Anthony Hennen is a reporter for The Center Square. Previously, he worked for Philadelphia Weekly and the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal. He is managing editor of Expatalachians, a journalism project focused on the Appalachian region.