Carl Smith had no problem being convinced to enroll in Pennsylvania College of Technology’s Mechatronics Apprenticeship program.
On Thursday, he became one of the nine first graduates of the four-year program that combines school education with training through their employers.
“It’s definitely worth its weight in gold,” Smith, 47, said. “I’m a sucker for education.”
Smith, employed by First Quality Tissue, was eager to advance his job skills through his apprenticeship with the company.
“It’s hard to believe it’s been four years,” he said. “It’s a good program.”
Tara Loew, director of the State Department of Labor & Industry’s Apprenticeship & Training Office, lauded the graduates and apprenticeships.
She noted that mechatronics, an integration of mechanical engineering with electronics, computer systems and advanced controls to design, construct, and operate products and processes, is an emerging field that will continue to play a big part in shaping the world.
“You were trained with multiple skills,” she told the graduates.
The “learn as you earn” model of apprenticeship programs, means long-term career success, she said.
Tom Fry, Penn College mechatronics instructor, told the graduates their skills are “needed like never before.”
He urged them to be role models in their workplaces.
“I’m really glad that companies are backing this up,” Penn College Mechatronics Instructor Alan Kuhar said about the apprenticeship program.
For too long, the popular notion was for people to pursue traditional college educations.
He referred to skills trades as “essential aspects” for so many workplaces.
Christopher Ray, executive director of Penn College’s Workforce Development, noted that companies were “forward thinking” in helping to launch apprenticeships.
The students, he added, were faced with the challenge of doing apprenticeships during COVID-19.
“You are the first to go through the program,” he said. “To newly minted journey workers: Congratulations.”
Michael Reed, vice president for Academic Affairs, said the partnerships between the college and companies is invaluable.
The list of graduates and their companies are as follows:
• Scott Andrews Jr., The Hershey Co.
• Scott Barnes, Design Group America Inc.
• Thomas Botsford, First Quality Tissue
• Christopher Fisher, First Quality Tissue.
• Wade Greenly, Girton Manufacturing
• Kyle Jessick, Dempsey Uniform & Linen Supply
• Carl Smith, First Quality Tissue.
• Tyler Smith, West Pharmaceutical Services
• Curtis Stackhouse, First Quality Tissue
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