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Penn Commercial and Community Partners Held Educational Forum to Raise Awareness on Local Career and Educational Opportunities | Penn Commercial




Employers in western Pennsylvania and the United States have jobs to fill, but struggle to find qualified, willing workers.

To help spur interest in finding employees, the Washington County Chamber of Commerce, Penn Commercial, Junior Achievement of Southwestern Pennsylvania, and local employers hosted a forum with regional school district superintendents and others. education officials to discuss the skills gap and career opportunities that exist for high school students as they focus on their future.

The October 18 event took place in Junior Achievement’s BizTown, a simulated town that allows elementary school students to operate banks, manage restaurants, write checks and learn business skills through a innovative educational experience.

“There is a huge need for skilled professionals in the trades and the sooner we can introduce these careers to students, the better. We need to reach out to students and parents while they’re in the decision-making process,” said Robert Bazant, president of Penn Commercial.

Washington County Chamber of Commerce President Jeff Kotula agrees.

“The great quitting and retirement of baby boomers is forcing all industries to fill vacancies,” he said. “The purpose of the Skills Gap Forum is to help convey to the superintendent and education officials a complete picture of the career opportunities that exist for students. »

The forum brought together business leaders such as Washington Health System, Range Resources, Lennox National, Lighthouse Electric, ATI, Smith Transport and Washington Auto Group (Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Jeep).

“The forum went well,” said Rick Szymanski, Director of Marketing, Penn Commercial Business/Technical School. “The forum focused on the skills gap in western Pennsylvania and pretty much the United States as a whole. What we are trying to do is reach out to superintendents to find out what they are hearing from parents about the future of their children. We want to highlight the importance of skilled trades careers and opportunities throughout the region.

The Forum discussed positions, careers, salary scales, long-term career opportunities that exist today for students.

“We hope to continue this conversation because young people have to replace retired people,” Szymanski said. “We really wanted to work with school district officials. Find a way to reach these students and let them know that trade schools are a great option for them because there are good jobs in these sectors that are not being filled. There are simply not enough trained and skilled workers to meet employers’ demands.

Szymanski said trades careers aren’t always top of mind for high school students.

“These are great careers that young people don’t usually think about – welders, HVAC technicians, electricians,” he said. “A lot of these careers the superintendents just don’t know anything about. They don’t know that these are high-paying options for their students that don’t require four-year degrees or the debt that comes with that. So we learned a lot from them and they learned a lot from us.

Nicole Lane, campus director at Penn Commercial, which offers 13 programs in trades and technical careers, said the school is regularly contacted by employers looking for candidates in fields ranging from HVAC, electrician , welder, nursing and CAD/IT.

“We have companies contacting us all the time to recruit, but we don’t have enough students to place because they are all placed. We have a 100% placement rate for CVC programs for the next two years. HVAC companies call us for graduates; we don’t have anyone to send them,” Lane said. “For electricians right now, it’s booming.”

Szymanski said attending a four-year college may not be financially feasible for some families, when trade schools like Penn Commercial are able to offer programs that last 18 months or less. “College isn’t necessarily the best option for everyone,” he said. “If you compare the price of a typical four-year college where tuition and fees can reach $30,000 a year or more, while trade schools often don’t cost that much for a full level program associate, it’s really an economical choice for those parents.

Szymanski said the COVID-19 pandemic has also hurt the workforce, with more people deciding to retire. Additionally, extended federal unemployment benefits for workers have played a role in preventing workers from returning to the workforce. “What has exacerbated this gap is that older workers are retiring, but there aren’t enough young people with those skills to replace them,” he said.

Szymanski said companies have had to get more aggressive to attract a new generation of workers.

“Companies are raising wages and salaries to entice people into these fields,” he said. For more information on Penn Commercial programs, visit

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By Van Mitchell