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College-STEP Program Helps Teens Pick Career Path

The daunting task of choosing a career path becomes a bit less intimidating for the Lycoming County teens who participate in the “Summer Youth Career Awareness” program sponsored annually by STEP and Pennsylvania College of Technology.

Each of the past six years, some 25 to 30 eligible 14- to 16-year-olds have gained hands-on experience and exposure to more than a dozen vocational fields. The career menu includes automotive, aviation, carpentry, childcare, computer-aided drafting, electrical, environmental, forestry, heating and air-conditioning, horticulture, hospitality, machining, paramedic, and printing and publishing.

STEP, through the local Workforce Investment Board, funds $24,316 of the costs for the project, and the remaining $11,531 is provided by Penn College.

Over a six-week period, the teens visit the Penn College campus to learn about various jobs by performing the tasks they would tackle in the real-world workplace.

William H. Herald, project coordinator for the College’s Technology Transfer Center, said the hands-on activities offer teens a unique opportunity.

“Throughout the six weeks, the students will be involved in a different activity each day,” he said. “The students will not only watch someone wire a circuit, but they will use the equipment and learn what it means to be an electrician. They will not only watch an instructor demonstrate the techniques of a PowerPoint presentation layout and development, but they will create their own images and narrative and print out a presentation.”

The students also learn how to interact as groups, Herald noted, as they cooperate and support one another in completing assigned tasks − another essential skill in the workplace.

The experience also benefits the Penn College faculty members who help the students explore vocations that they may have had little exposure to beforehand.

“What is special is the enthusiasm that is shown to and by these students,” Herald said. “Many faculty look forward to this contact each summer. Students enjoy this exposure to occupational areas, as well as finding out what they don’t want to do. It’s a valuable learning experience at the right time in a child’s life.”

Before and after the career training, STEP administers English and math tests to the students to monitor improvement in those skills. The students also are given the opportunity to work for two days per week during the six weeks that the program runs.

Several “graduates” of the Summer Youth Career Awareness program have enrolled at Penn College after completing high school.

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