Adams County is currently in a deficit. No, I’m not talking about a financial deficit—I’m talking about an educational deficit that is affecting our kids, our communities, and our workforce.
What is this educational deficit? It’s Adams County’s lack of a career and technical center (CTC). But wait, you might say, there’s a tech school next to Gettysburg Area High School, right? Yes and no. Yes—that’s the Adams County Technical Institute, which you might still identify under its previous name of Adams County Tech Prep. I am familiar with the organization, as I was the first Executive Director and helped to create the school’s first course offering in Allied Health. But it doesn’t stop there. In addition to the lack of employees available to fill existing job openings, many of the employment opportunities require technical skills. These jobs pay well! They provide family sustaining wages. They are no longer the jobs we think about being historically industrial: hot, dirty and dangerous. Think high tech and high skill.
We are proud of our efforts, back in 1994, to establish Adams County Tech Prep (now Adams County Technical Institute), as it was the first county-wide effort to include all six school districts in a mutual effort. Personally, I couldn’t be more pleased to see how far it’s come, but it’s not enough. I have invited Shawn Eckenrode, current Administrative Director of Adams County Technical Institute to explain our current situation by writing the remainder of today’s column:
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, school districts across Pennsylvania, generally along county lines, joined resources with nearby districts to form jointly owned and operated area vocational technical schools. A similar effort was started in Adams County but never fully realized.
Now called CTCs, these schools provide career and technical education (CTE) programs to ensure students are career-ready upon graduation whether they plan to continue their career training at a postsecondary school or enter the workforce right after high school.
Because a CTC was not built in Adams County, our high schools have tried to fill the gap with tech-ed courses and a few CTE programs but it’s just not the same. Robust CTE programs offer extended class time (at least two hours per day), dual-enrollment credit, industry recognized credentials, and capstone cooperative education opportunities. Students in similarly sized counties have 12-18 programs to choose from while students in larger counties typically have 24 or more programs available. Programs such as Automotive Technology, Collision Repair, Healthcare, Electrical Occupations, HVAC, or Veterinary Assistant are needed in all communities, regardless of size.
Not only are our students missing out, but our local businesses are also missing out on skilled, entry-level workers. You could even draw a parallel between career and technical education and the standard of living in a community. If you have these programs available, you have a higher skilled workforce, better paying jobs, and a higher standard of living. There are many benefits of training and therefore retaining our young workforce.
The current Adams County Technical Institute was formed in 2020 by separating seven CTE programs from the Gettysburg Area School District, to form the first jointly owned and operated CTC in Adams County. We serve students in five of the six school districts in Adams County. Over the past three years, an average of 35 kids per year have not been able to access our training due to high demand and not enough seats.
Our vision is to “continuously improve and expand career and technical education opportunities to meet the needs of the local workforce and the career goals of our students.” Our kids, local businesses, and community deserve the same workforce training as other parts of our state. Much work and many challenges lie ahead to get us there but, working together, we can do it! I am issuing an invitation to join the effort: Please contact me at [email protected]. I sincerely thank you. -Shawn Eckenrode
This column was originally published in the Gettysburg Times, March 10, 2022.
Robin Fitzpatrick is President of Adams Economic Alliance, which comprises three organizations: The Adams County Economic Development Corporation (ACEDC), the Adams County Industrial Development Authority (ACIDA) and the Adams County General Authority (ACGA). For more information, see adamsalliance.org, or follow us on Twitter (@AdamsAlliance), Facebook (Facebook.com/AdamsAlliance) and LinkedIn (Adams Economic Alliance).