U.S. Reps. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard Township, and Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat from Illinois, visited the Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology on its first day of school to discuss the importance of career and technical education.
Thompson and Krishnamoorthi co-authored the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, which unanimously passed the U.S. House in June.
“This bipartisan legislation will help more Americans enter the workforce with the knowledge and skills they need to compete for jobs in industries critical to our nation’s economy,” Thompson said.
The bill aims to improve alignment with in-demand jobs, increase accountability and transparency of CTE programs and empower local and state leaders by simplifying the application process for receiving federal funds, he said.
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It’ll help tackle the “skills gap” that leaves 6 million jobs in the workforce unfilled every year because private employers can’t find people with the right training to take those jobs, Krishnamoorthi said.
Thompson said it’s now up to the U.S. Senate to consider the legislation.
Programs like CPI’s natural gas compression, CAT/Ariel emphasis, are why the CTE legislation is so important, he said.
The two-year (associate in specialized technology) degree program launches in November and is in partnership with Cleveland Brothers — a Pennsylvania-based Caterpillar dealer — and Ariel Corp.
The program is only the second of its kind in the country.
CPI is the “perfect match” for this program, said Brett Parks, manager of sales and distributor development for Ariel Corp.
The program’s lab at CPI is filled with tools and equipment donated by the corporations.
Leadership at Cleveland Brothers and Ariel had a vision, Parks said. They knew in the Marcellus Shale region that the companies would need technicians to work on their equipment.
Most technicians in the oil and gas world are trained in a factory setting, so Caterpillar trains them to work on the engines and Ariel trains them to work on the compressors, Parks said.
But then at the site, two technicians are needed, he said. The training at CPI will produce technicians who can work on both the engines and compressors.
“The workplace is evolving, and training and retraining is needed to be able to keep up with the industry needs. …,” said Vern Squier, president and CEO of Chamber of Business & Industry of Centre County. “We want to partner with and seek not only the legislation that empowers and fuels this notion, but we want to support the CPIs of the world that really help bring into being that training that helps our economy and helps our existing businesses. It’s all synergistic.”