Penn College receives NSF grant to combat skills gap
WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – Unfilled manufacturing jobs through 2028 may total 2.4 million, threatening the health of the industry and the U.S. economy. With help from the National Science Foundation, Pennsylvania College of Technology is addressing that dire skills gap estimated by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute.
The NSF recently awarded the college a $591,924 grant through its Advanced Technological Education program to increase the number of qualified workers in advanced manufacturing. The money will fund several initiatives during the next three years aimed at students, teachers and school counselors.
“We are honored that the NSF has placed its faith in the college to help combat the alarming skills gap in manufacturing,” said David R. Cotner, dean of Penn College’s School of Industrial, Computing & Engineering Technologies. “It’s estimated that five out of 10 open manufacturing positions aren’t filled today because of the skills gap. We must dispel the ‘dark, dirty and dangerous’ manufacturing myth and reveal the reality of manufacturing. The sector offers outstanding jobs focused on advanced technology in clean environments.”
The study conducted by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute identified negative perceptions of manufacturing, the introduction of advanced technologies and the retirement of baby boomers as the main reasons for the skills gap.
Penn College initiatives facilitated by the grant will target misperceptions and offer pathways to obtain advanced technical skills.
College faculty- and staff-led symposiums and other recruitment activities geared to high school students, teachers and guidance counselors will dispel the myths of manufacturing as a nontechnical, low-paying career path. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average U.S. manufacturing worker’s annual pay in salary and benefits in 2017 was $84,832.
An increased pool of potential manufacturing students will have enhanced educational options at the college. Curriculum development – including a one-year certificate in computer numerical control – and high-level equipment acquisition in the areas of multi-axis machining, coordinate measuring machines and additive manufacturing will result from the grant.
“The grant also provides the resources for us to study and evaluate the effectiveness of our various efforts to attract and prepare students for advanced-technology careers within manufacturing,” Cotner said. “It’s essential that we monitor and adjust to the needs of industry as we attempt to shrink the skills gap.”
Richard K. Hendricks Jr., instructor of automated manufacturing and machining, served as the college’s principal investigator for the grant. Co-principal investigators were Eric K. Albert, associate professor of automated manufacturing and machining, and Bradley M. Webb, assistant dean of industrial, computing & engineering technologies.
Penn College offers several manufacturing-related majors, including a bachelor’s degree in manufacturing engineering technology, associate degrees in automated manufacturing technology and machine tool technology, and a certificate in machinist general.
Information about those majors and other programs offered by the college’s School of Industrial, Computing & Engineering Technologies is available by calling 570-327-4520 or visiting www.pct.edu/icet.