Colleges, Universities in Region Prepare Students for Growing Industries
If the test for future prosperity in the Oh-Penn region is preparing the workforce for jobs in the region's existing and emerging industries, colleges and universities are passing with flying colors. The region is full of educational and workforce development initiatives that excel at training today's students to be tomorrow's workers.
Marcellus Shale Training Fills Local Need
At Butler County Community College (BC3), students are being trained to work in the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry, which is rapidly growing in the region.
Funded by ShaleNET – a three-year, $4.9 million effort created by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration -- and the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Program, BC3's first course, which focused on roustabout training, took place in February.
“To enroll in the program, students have to go through an extensive screening process,” says Stephen R. Catt, executive director of workforce development at BC3. “Students are tested for drugs, we run a criminal background check, and they must have a valid driver's license and a clean driving record. They also have to be able to work outside and lift and carry 80 pounds.”
Applicants are examined so closely because of the safety hazards employees encounter on the job and the fact that workers need to be dependable, according to Catt.
“When we host seminars and training sessions, we are brutal,” he says. “This is not easy work.”
In addition to a roustabout program, BC3 offers courses that students can take to become welder's helpers or floor hands, with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) training provided as well.
Eastern Gateway Community College also offers a ShaleNET-funded roustabout program, while Youngstown State University has established the Natural Gas and Water Resources Institute to help students find jobs in the industry.
STEM Programs Encourage, Inspire
Youngstown State University is also working to inspire students to pursue degrees and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) through the STEM Outreach Initiative. Created through a partnership with the AT&T Foundation – which donated $20,000 to the program – and Youngstown City Schools, the crux of the initiative involves connecting Chaney STEM High School students with businesses in the area, allowing them to participate in internships and get hands-on experience in STEM-related fields.
Grove City College is focused on engaging young students in STEM industries, too. This year, the school received a $10,000 grant from The Grable Foundation to host the Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology (BEST) Robotics competition for middle and high school students. The school also began construction of a new Science, Engineering and Mathematics building this year.
Westminster College in Lawrence County, Pa. is known around the U.S. for its STEM programs. Forbes has ranked the school first in the nation for its programs for women in science, technology, engineering and math fields.
Nursing Informatics Expands Career Opportunities
Students interested in specializing in health-care technology can now obtain an undergraduate certificate in Nursing Informatics at Penn State Shenango. While the nine-credit certificate can be part of a nursing student's baccalaureate courses, registered nurses can also enroll in the classes.
“Many of the tools in health care are now computerized,” says Dr. Kathleen Mastrian, associate professor and program coordinator for nursing at PS Shenango. “Nurses need to understand both the clinical and technological sides of the industry.”
To earn the certificate in Nursing Informatics, students take courses focused on electronic health records, clinical decision support tools and database management. They can complete courses on campus or online and earn their certificates in just a year.
Graduates typically go on to work in hospitals, corporate offices of health-care systems, home health agencies and consulting firms.
Oh-Penn Region Colleges and Universities
Lancaster County, Penn. – Butler County Community College at Lawrence Crossing, Westminster College