Not all successful careers start with a college degree.
I understand it may seem strange for a community college president to say that a college degree is not necessary to have a career that earns a family-sustaining wage. At HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, this philosophy is reflected through our new purpose statement: Learning for all; learning for life. We need more education, community and government leaders to make it possible for Central Pennsylvania’s citizens to pursue alternate educational pathways before jobs leave our region.
Many Americans can’t afford and shouldn’t think that the only path to a successful career is through two- or four-year degrees. In fact, the four-year college student graduates with an average of $28,650 in debt, up from $17,350 in 2000. This statistic does not include those who accumulate debt and never earn a degree. Nationally, our manufacturers cannot afford to think this way either when they face a projection of 2.4 million unfilled jobs in manufacturing over the next decade.
National Apprenticeship Week highlights one way that individuals can pursue a successful career without a two- or four-year degree. Apprenticeships are an excellent vehicle for transferring the skills of our aging workforce to new employees.
HACC is a post-secondary educational institution that closely examines the job and industry needs of our community and develops educational pathways that meet those needs.
- In 2017, HACC’s Industrial Manufacturing Technician (IMT) Apprenticeship Program was developed in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. This 18-month program teaches entry-level individuals how to set up, operate, monitor and control production equipment. Graduates earn a journey worker credential from the United States Department of Labor and a certified production technician credential from the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council.
- In 2018, HACC, in partnership with High Hotels, Ltd., launched the first Hospitality Apprenticeship Program in Pennsylvania to provide low-skilled staff a pathway from entry-level jobs to management.
- In 2019, HACC worked with Geisinger Emergency Medical Services to launch this region’s first Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) apprenticeship approved by the Pennsylvania Training and Apprenticeship Council. Upon completion of the EMT apprenticeship program, the employee will have all of the necessary certifications to serve as an EMT throughout the country. Additionally, these certifications provide a pathway toward paramedic certification and articulations to the Health Science Program at HACC.
In these apprenticeship programs, students work and take classes one or two nights a week at HACC. The skills they gain at the worksite, paired with the technical training they receive through HACC, allows them to “earn as they learn.” This support for our industries reaches beyond the traditional “trades.” Many of these apprenticeships not only prepare students for the workforce, but they provide credits that can be applied to other degree programs.
HACC is also partnering with high schools in our region to offer pre-apprenticeships to high school students.
Apprenticeships are not only an investment for our College, but for our business partners, government, community and students. They take time to develop, authorize and implement. HACC knows this time investment is worth it for the future of our workforce and economy. I encourage you to take the time to discover how to pave the way for new educational pathways, like apprenticeships, for our community.
John J. “Ski” Sygielski, Ed.D., is president of HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or contacted on Twitter at @HACCSki.