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Common Goals Affirmed for College’s K-12 Partners

K-12 educators gain appreciation of their collaborative role in preparing students for higher education and the rewarding careers beyond.Pennsylvania College of Technology hosted nearly 100 K-12 educators Friday to talk about technology education, the skills gap in the U.S. workforce and how they can work together to help students transition from high school to college.

The educators – many of whom are school counselors and administrators – traveled from as far away as Erie, Pittsburgh and Chester County.

“We have a dual purpose of introducing educators to our campus and programs and helping them understand the importance of applied technology,” said Tanya Berfield, manager of college transitions at Penn College. “We want to help fill the gaps in administrative professional development and hit the hot topics that are important in their world.”

Keynoter Carolyn R. Strickland, vice president of enrollment management/associate provost, refutes misconceptions about manufacturing jobs.
Keynoter Carolyn R. Strickland, vice president of enrollment management/associate provost, refutes misconceptions about manufacturing jobs.

Among hot topics for afternoon sessions were the admissions process, career exploration and helping students choose a major they’ll love, helping students with disabilities transition to college, and developing engaged student-leaders.

“We appreciate days like today to interact with you who are very important to our common goal of helping our students to be successful,” Carolyn R. Strickland, vice president of enrollment management, told the audience.

Penn College athletics director John D. Vandevere, who was joined by a panel of coaches and student-athletes, discusses the impact of NCAA Division III sports on the student body.
Penn College athletics director John D. Vandevere, who was joined by a panel of coaches and student-athletes, discusses the impact of NCAA Division III sports on the student body.

During a rousing welcome, Bruce A. Wehler, assistant professor of English-composition, presented challenges in the high school-to-college transition that students face.

He thanked the educators for the difference they make in helping students to grow beyond their circumstances.

“You change lives,” he said.

In a keynote address, Strickland discussed the skills gap in the U.S. workforce. In health care and in manufacturing, there are more job openings than there are qualified citizens to fill them.

“The discussion needs to begin with perception,” Strickland said.

Erin S. Shultz (left), coordinator of career development, and Danielle M. Liddic, coordinator of employer/industry relations, talk about how to help students choose a career they will love.
Erin S. Shultz (left), coordinator of career development, and Danielle M. Liddic, coordinator of employer/industry relations, talk about how to help students choose a career they will love.

She said that two-thirds of teens consider manufacturing occupations to be dirty, dangerous, requiring little critical thinking and having little room for advancement.

Mallory L. Weymer, coordinator of student health and wellness education and suicide prevention specialist, co-presents a session on Mental Health and College Transitions. Also presenting was Kathy W. Zakarian, director of counseling.
Mallory L. Weymer, coordinator of student health and wellness education and suicide prevention specialist, co-presents a session on Mental Health and College Transitions. Also presenting was Kathy W. Zakarian, director of counseling.

But that is simply not the case, she noted, sharing stories of students landing jobs that require technical know-how, innovation and creativity. Employers have called the Penn College graduates they hire “gold collar” because they have the technology skills associated with a blue-collar worker and the soft skills of a white-collar worker.

“For those students who have the skills required by the modern workforce, … careers with incredible opportunities await.”

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