Fifty ninth-grade students spent a day at the Fayette County Career and Technical Institute (CTI) in May, getting their hands dirty as they rotated through four of the school’s manufacturing-related programs.

Designated “Manufacturing Day,” the promotional event designed to recruit students to the vocational school and direct into career pathways comes at a time when the CTI is adding opportunities to jump-start students’ careers before they graduate.

During the course of the day, students from the school’s four sending districts — Albert Gallatin, Brownsville, Laurel Highlands and Uniontown — participated in hands-on activities with CTI instructors in four of the institute’s shops, including advanced manufacturing, welding, machine production technology and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning).

CTI recruiter Courtney Venick said the event served to inform prospective students about educational opportunities available at the school that can lead to in-demand career opportunities with local manufacturing companies.

“There are companies that are calling us that will hire right now. They want us to train in specific skills,” said Venick.

“[Students] can come right out of school and work, or they can go on and get a two-year degree or four-year degree. The opportunities are out there.”

Manufacturing Day is part of a push by the CTI to emphasize advanced manufacturing among prospective students due to industry demand for a skilled workforce, according to Executive Director Dr. Cynthia Shaw.

With low enrollment in the school’s manufacturing programs, and school administrators hearing a need for employable workers from employers who sit on the school’s occupational advisory committee, the CTI has made an effort to expand the manufacturing program and get more students to choose manufacturing careers, Shaw said.

This spring, the CTI was awarded a grant through the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry totaling nearly $50,000 that will allow it to develop a registered apprenticeship program to give students apprenticeship opportunities with area companies in the manufacturing sector.

The program will give students workplace experience and the chance to earn money before they graduate, said Shaw.

“There’s curriculum developed, and as an apprentice learns different skills, when they get to a certain (skill) level, the employer agrees to give them a raise,” she said.

The grant will allow the CTI to create an apprenticeship sponsorship through which companies can register to accept apprentices. The program will give students opportunities in manufacturing areas beyond machining, which is the trade practiced by the only four apprenticeship companies currently registered in Fayette County, according to Shaw.

Shaw said students in good academic standing entering their junior year will be eligible for the apprenticeship component, at which time they will begin to job shadow while finishing their academic coursework.

They will begin a workplace apprenticeship in the summer prior to their senior year that will continue throughout the school year.

“This is a pathway for the kids. The goal is that by graduation they’re beyond entry-level and have training-related post-secondary credits,” Shaw said. “They can come here and get a job and have credits to continue on.”

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