‘Cream of our crop for our local businesses.’ First group of CentreReady students graduate

Local students are workforce ready after CBICC program

The Chamber of Industry and Business of Centre County’s 2019 CentreREADY designees were honored Friday, May 3 at a special reception at the Wyndham Garden State College.
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The Chamber of Industry and Business of Centre County’s 2019 CentreREADY designees were honored Friday, May 3 at a special reception at the Wyndham Garden State College.

A group of 69 Centre County students earned the business community’s seal of approval after graduating from the Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County’s workforce preparedness initiative, the organization announced Friday.

The CentreReady program focuses on assessing students’ proficiency in six core categories — work ethic, manners, teamwork, communication, critical thinking and understanding supervision — that county employers say are essential.

More than 40 businesses, all five of the county’s school districts and its two career and technical training institutions either partnered with, or support the initiative.

“We are honored to celebrate the achievements of students who took it upon themselves to earn the CentreReady designation,” CBICC President and CEO Vern Squier said in a statement. “We commend their desire to excel at job attributes that are so critical in today’s workplace. Our businesses have said that they need employees with strong core skills. As a community response to local workforce needs, CentreReady is beginning to build that pool of potential job candidates.”

The program launched in September and was rolled out to students in the following months.

South Hills School of Business and Technology qualified 29 students as CentreReady designees, but expects more to earn the designation in September after they complete a mandatory internship, Outreach Director Jeff Stachowski said.

Current graduates include accounting, criminal justice, diagnostic medical sonography, medical assistants and health information technology majors. The fall class is set to include networking IT, programming IT, engineering technology, management, graphic arts, administrative professional and administrative medical assistants majors, according to Stachowski.

“Since everything we do here at South Hills is designed to prepare the students for a great career, the CentreReady credential is a credential that makes a lot of sense to our students. We have set the bar for a student to qualify pretty high, and so not just anyone can achieve the CentreReady status,” Stachowski said. “We are pleased and excited to be able to identify the cream of our crop for our local businesses.”

South Hills School community outreach director Jeff Stachowski introduced the CBICC’s Centre Ready program on Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019. Abby Drey

Nine Penns Valley Area School District students graduated from the program and are set to be recognized at the district’s 32nd annual Senior Academic Awards ceremony on June 5, and during graduation, according to career coordinator Jess Martin.

“We are hopeful that this program will catch on with our underclassmen and will continue to grow,” Martin said. “The students that participated are glad that they have earned this recognition that sets them apart from their peers. This certificate recognizes their hard work and dedication to excellence.“

Eighteen students from each of the State College Area School District’s 14 career and technical center programs received the designation, with the largest groups being from diversified occupations and marketing, according to CTC Director Sharon Perry.

Those students were recognized Friday at the CentreReady banquet hosted by the CBICC and are also set to be recognized at the district’s underclass and senior awards ceremony and graduation.

“The opportunity for schools to connect with industry and partner with CBICC is a meaningful and beneficial relationship for our community,” Perry said. “That partnership piece is why we’re doing this to help our community identify and develop our workforce.”

Five Philipsburg-Osceola Area Senior High School students obtained the certification, according to P-O Principal Justin Hazelton. “We’re proud of them,” he said.

Eight students from the Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology graduated, while 21 students from Bellefonte Area School District — or about 10 percent of the senior class — showed interest. Bellefonte Area High School Principal Mike Fedisson said many students saw the program as a “valuable step toward life after high school.”

Bellefonte Area High School Principal Mike Fedisson stands outside the school on Aug. 22, 2017. Phoebe Sheehan

Students from the Bald Eagle Area School District were also recognized.

“We are very fortunate to have this great program in Centre County and we hope to recruit more students next year so that we can continue to grow this initiative and expand opportunities for our stakeholders,” CPI Secondary Education Vice President MaryAnn Volders said. “I believe that all of the schools will see additional students participate in the program in the coming years as they realize the value of the program in relationship to their post-secondary plans.

The CBICC plans to meet with employers this month so businesses can learn more about action steps now that the first group of CentreReady students has been recognized, according to CBICC communications and marketing vice president Lesley Kistner.

Students may enroll in the program at the beginning of the 2019-20 school year by speaking to an academic adviser or school counselor.

“Everyone involved in developing the CentreReady initiative was encouraged by the early interest shown by students,” CBICC Economic Development Vice President Jennifer Myers said in a statement. “We are confident that interest in and desire to earn the designation will only grow next year and in subsequent years as more awareness is raised about the value of obtaining CentreReady skills.”

Bret Pallotto primarily reports on courts and crime for the Centre Daily Times. He grew up in Lewistown and graduated from Lock Haven University.