Upper Bucks Tech School Tour Promotes Alternatives to College Life

Upper Bucks County Technical School in Perkasie host­ed a cam­pus tour for an offi­cial from Gov. Tom Wolf’s admin­is­tra­tion, high­light­ing the val­ue of voca­tion­al education.

There’s nowhere else Dylan Augustin would rather be on a rainy Thursday morn­ing than scrunched inside the body of a clas­sic sports car, pow­er tools in hand and ready to get to work on fix­ing it up. The hollowed-out frame of the Porsche propped up in the garage at Upper Bucks County Technical School in Perkasie has no dash­board, uphol­stery or tires. It’s the per­fect spot for Dylan to improve his skills in the school’s Automotive Collision Technology program.

I’ve always been into cars, get­ting under the hoods and see­ing how they work,” said Dylan, a sopho­more from Pennridge High School. “This pro­gram has been the per­fect fit. The class­es are a lot of fun, and I’m get­ting a lot out of them.”

The car won’t be going any­where soon, but Dylan has his own future mapped out. He plans to take his auto­mo­tive skills to the Marine Corps after high school, then move to the pri­vate sec­tor when he com­pletes his service.

Dylan serves as a prime exam­ple of the alter­na­tives to four-year col­lege pro­grams that lead­ers in edu­ca­tion, busi­ness and gov­ern­ment want to high­light for future high school grad­u­ates con­cerned about whether uni­ver­si­ty life is the best option.

Technical schools like this are under­val­ued in the com­mu­ni­ty,” said Eileen Cipriani, Department of Labor & Industry Deputy Secretary for Workforce Development at the school Thursday. “Not every­body needs to go to a four-year school. We need to do a bet­ter job of pro­vid­ing stu­dents a full career explo­ration that will give them a bet­ter idea of what’s out there.”

Cipriani toured the tech school Thursday morn­ing to help pro­mote Gov. Tom Wolf’s PASmart pro­gram, a work­force devel­op­ment bud­get ini­tia­tive that would “invest $50 mil­lion for STEM and com­put­er sci­ence edu­ca­tion, sup­port hands-on tech­ni­cal edu­ca­tion pro­grams, and encour­age employ­ers and schools to coor­di­nate togeth­er to help stu­dents get the skills employ­ers need,” accord­ing to a news release.

Investing in career and tech­ni­cal edu­ca­tion (CTE) cen­ters like Upper Bucks County Technical School ensures that our work­ers and stu­dents get the real-world skills they need to com­pete for in-demand, 21st cen­tu­ry jobs,” Cipriani said in a state­ment. “It is our goal that by 2025, 60 per­cent of Pennsylvanians will have some form of post­sec­ondary edu­ca­tion and training.”

Representatives from the school guid­ed Cipriani through the auto­mo­tive col­li­sion, weld­ing and fab­ri­ca­tion, machin­ing, con­struc­tion tech­nol­o­gy and mecha­tron­ics class­es. Her vis­it came short­ly after the school com­plet­ed a $23 mil­lion ren­o­va­tion to the facil­i­ties. The project includ­ed improve­ments to the school’s safe­ty fea­tures, bet­ter acces­si­bil­i­ty for stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties, an ener­gy effi­cient HVAC sys­tem and upgrades to the instruc­tion­al space and equipment.

The ren­o­va­tions also improved the gen­der equi­ty with­in the pro­grams. Those fea­tures include indi­vid­ual chang­ing rooms that would make women more com­fort­able in male-dominated spe­cial­ties, such as auto care and con­struc­tion. State guide­lines pre­fer 18 per­cent of stu­dents in non-traditional class­es (i.e. women in weld­ing and plumb­ing, men in health care and cos­me­tol­ogy). UBCTS Assistant Director Cathleen Piesnarski said Thursday that the school is at about 10 percent.

We are not at the num­ber we want to be at right now,” Piesnarski said. “We’ve worked to keep gen­der out of our pro­mo­tion­al mate­ri­als, with pic­tures focused on hands. We’ve also worked with guid­ance coun­selors to stay con­scious of any implic­it bias­es when talk­ing to stu­dents about career options.”

A first-rate tech­ni­cal school is only as good as the peo­ple inside shap­ing the cur­ricu­lum and prepar­ing the stu­dents for the real world. Before Cipriani’s tour began she met with rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the school and busi­ness com­mu­ni­ty to hear how they have worked togeth­er to cre­ate viable pro­grams for the future workforce.

Upper Bucks County Technical School serves approx­i­mate­ly 700 stu­dents in grades nine through 12 from Palisades, Pennridge and Quakertown school dis­tricts. It offers 21 career and tech­ni­cal pro­grams to sec­ondary stu­dents and runs adult evening class­es in man­u­fac­tur­ing, con­struc­tion and auto­mo­tive at the facility.

May 17, 2018