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Workforce-investment board tackles technology teaching

The advancement of technology is making it necessary to change the way students are educated in grade school, said Scott Sheely, executive director of the Lancaster County Workforce Investment Board.

The advancement of technology is making it necessary to change the way students are educated in grade school, said Scott Sheely, executive director of the Lancaster County Workforce Investment Board.

"The transition from school to work is vital to economic development," Sheely said.

Sheely spoke Jan. 31 at the annual Youth Career Summit. The summit was sponsored by the Youth Council of the Lancaster County WIB and by the Lancaster County Career and Technology Center.

This was the fourth year of the summit, which was put together to inform educators of the in-demand industries and jobs in Lancaster County and upcoming career-education activities, said Andrew Garner, youth coordinator for the Lancaster County WIB.

About 160 people from public and private school districts, area employers and community-based organizations attended the event, Garner said.

Near the end of January, Sheely said he paid a visit to a handful of companies in the Midwest, including the headquarters of Wisconsin-based Doboy, which is owned by Bosch Packaging Technology Co. Doboy manufactures high-tech packaging machines, including a machine that can wrap 900 packages per minute, Sheely said.

One issue at the facility is there are not enough skilled workers to build the machines, Sheely said. And the companies that use the machines do not have enough qualified workers to operate the machines, he said.

To help Lancaster County companies compete in the global marketplace, education institutions need to provide a fresh supply of skilled workers, Sheely said.

"We need to turn our traditional career process on its ear," Sheely said. "We're trying to catch up with the world."

Lancaster's workforce-investment board has been identifying high-priority occupations in seven key industries that are growing and important within the county. The industries are health care, biotechnology, agriculture and food processing, metals and metal fabricating, communications, construction and automotive.

From these industries, the board is working to find out which skills will be required to handle the upcoming technology and then encourage educational institutions to teach these skills.

"We're trying to get teachers at the high school level and lower to start thinking about how you introduce some of that math and English and applied physics into their curriculum," Sheely said.

A lot of the county's teachers have not been trained in these areas, so the workforce-investment board is working to develop training programs for them at a handful of colleges in the county, Sheely said. The board also would like to bring businesses into schools to help introduce some of the skills to students and teachers. The program is in the planning stages, but Sheely said classes for teachers might be ready for the summer of 2009.

A new initiative this year is the County Wide Job Shadow Project, which is set for April 21-25. A number of Lancaster County organizations are arranging the event, including the workforce-investment board, the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Junior Achievement of Central Pennsylvania.

While the project will include opportunities to explore high-tech and in-demand industries, it also will work to provide experiences across the board, said Cheryl Irwin, vice president of the chamber.

"We're trying to recruit companies to make sure we're providing experiences everywhere, in a variety of industries," Irwin said.

The chamber is recruiting companies to provide opportunities for ninth- and 10th-grade students to spend a day shadowing a job at the company's facility, Irwin said. The project is open to all Lancaster County school districts.

It is the chamber's goal to have a minimum of 200 jobs to be shadowed during the week, Irwin said.

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