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Summit Affirms College Role as Responsive Community Partner

Gov. Edward G. Rendell heard a number of concerns from Northern Tier community leaders during a lengthy economic summit at the North Campus on Friday, and one thing was clear at its conclusion: When many of those problems are addressed, Pennsylvania College of Technology will continue to be a large part of the solution.

“As I have gone around the state, I have heard universally in the workforce-development field a great need for us to ‘uptick’ our technology training,” the governor said. “And one of the institutions that everyone gives high marks to is Penn College I wish we had 10 Penn Colleges stretched out across the length and breadth of this commonwealth.”

A roomful of municipal officials, joined by constituents from area business and industry, raised a variety of issues during the informal give-and-take: infrastructure improvement, regulatory red tape, lack of consistent cellular-phone reception in rural areas, inconvenient and comparably expensive air service, foreign competition, medical service . . . even whether Pennsylvania should return to a more recognizable yellow-and-blue Keystone automobile license plate.

And, in two areas already being addressed by Penn College, officials asked for more cooperation between higher education and industry, and suggested incentives to keep graduates in Pennsylvania.

The health-care field offers but one example of the College’s responsiveness to the businesses in its community, said Davie Jane Gilmour, College president and member of this region’s Workforce Investment Board.

“Industries have identified their core areas that’s where they’re targeting their money, that’s where they’re targeting their grants, that’s where they’re going after the funding,” she explained. “They’ve identified the health-care industry as one of their most significant areas, so they work with us . . . saying, ‘This is what we need’ and we’ve gone about it quite effectively.” The College’s loan-forgiveness program, for instance, is among the cooperative steps toward easing the nursing shortage in area counties.

Because Penn College can tailor its curriculum to local industry in relatively short order, Dr. Gilmour added, it has been an able partner in providing skilled employees to those companies.

“Why industry is asking us more and more for (degree programs) in fact, we find out they’re even asking us to look at our certificates and convert them to degrees is because . . . they want a worker who not only knows those technologies, but can communicate, can do the computational skills, the math skills, etc.,” she said.

The summit was taped for broadcast on the Pennsylvania Cable Network.

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