PORT ALLEGANY — The shortage of qualified workers in the skilled trades is not only felt in manufacturing, but extends to the oil and gas industry, with welders among the hardest jobs to fill.
To meet this critical need, the Seneca Highlands Career and Technical Center in Port Allegany, which serves ten school districts in McKean, Cameron and Potter counties, is proceeding with plans to increase the center's physical space to accommodate an additional ten welding students, bringing the total enrollment in that curriculum to 40. Twenty would attend in each of the morning and afternoon sessions.
In an update of the events at the Career and Technical Center, Director James Young said, "we are still looking at expanding the welding program, which currently can handle 30 students and intend to enlarge that program, either within the current or in additional space."
Will physical changes in the building that opened in 1978 and renovated in 2006, be required to accommodate new course offerings?
"Most likely there will be changes within our walls, and the welding program will be absorbed within our current footprint," Young said.
Young said that available information at the outset showed the welding program would be a strong one and could start with 30 students. Early on, though, the plan was to find a way to grow enrollment to a maximum of 40 students.
The Career and Technical Center’s current enrollment stands at 290 in grades ten through 12. "We could fit in approximately 100 more students to reach capacity, despite declining enrollment in the participating districts," Young stated.
The Career and Technical Center now offers computer system networking, cosmetology, culinary arts, construction trades, heavy equipment maintenance, auto mechanics technology, machine tool technology, welding technology and health/medical assistant services. The cosmetology curriculum will be discontinued after this school year.
Like most vocational schools, the Career and Technical Center offers half-day classes. With the exception of Kane, students from the participating schools attend classes on half-days, and study their academic subjects the other half of their schedule in their home districts.
Kane is the latest district to join the Career and Technical Center. Due to block scheduling, these students attend all-day sessions every other day.