SOMERSET – A new early childhood education apprenticeship and the expansion of a tool-and-die partnership at Somerset County Technology Center illustrate new opportunities to build employment, a state official said Tuesday.

Apprenticeships offer a step up for young people entering the workforce at a time when skilled workers are in demand, said Eileen Cipriani, deputy secretary for workforce development in the Department of Labor and Industry.

“What we do have in Pennsylvania is a skill gap of workers who don’t have the skill sets they need to fill the jobs,” Cipriani told a group of students at the school.

Announcing the registered early childhood apprenticeship, in cooperation with The Learning Lamp, Administrative Director Karen Remick said Somerset County Technology Center is developing pre-apprentice curriculum for all 15 of its high school programs. Pre-apprentice training will put Somerset students at the front of the line for post-graduate apprenticeships, she said.

There are opportunities to create apprenticeships for each program, in cooperation with area employers, she said.

“That will be the next step: To develop apprenticeships in all those programs,” Remick said.

Many employers who hire workers following apprenticeships also provide additional on-the-job training and employer-paid education, Cipriani added.

“We really want you to know there are so many pathways,” Cipriani told the students. 

“Having somebody else pay for your education is a wonderful pathway.”

Leiss Tool & Die of Somerset has reintroduced an apprenticeship program for high school graduates, in partnership with the tech school, Daniel Leiss said during the program. The company has struggled to find qualified machinists.

“Over the past 20 years, it has gotten progressively worse,” Leiss said, adding that the apprenticeship program has helped the company retain 80 percent of the participants.

The apprenticeship provides more than a steady job, he said. The experience can be the gateway to a professional career.

“If they want to go on to become a mechanical engineer, or wherever they want to go, they have some of the things behind them already,” Leiss said.

Cipriani commended the Somerset technical school for its commitment to developing apprentice programs.

Gov. Tom Wolf has added $7 million in apprenticeships as part of his new PAsmart initiative to educate students and workers in growing career areas, Cipriani said.

State Sen. Patrick Stefano, R-Fayette, said apprentice programs enhance the state’s education system.

“What’s wonderful with these programs (is) we are linking our businesses to our schools,” Stefano said. 

Randy Griffith is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @photogriffer57.

Randy Griffith is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 532-5057. Follow him on Twitter @PhotoGriffer57.

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