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