The Hazleton Standard-Speaker
Barletta gets eye-opening tour of LCCC, job prospects
NANTICOKE — As U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta toured the welding program at Luzerne County Community College on Monday, a professor touted the field’s job prospects.
“All of our students seeking employment have employment when they are finished,” Engineering Technology professor A. Edward Kuehner told him. “There are more jobs than students.”
The congressman heard the same next door at the diesel truck technology shop. He heard it all afternoon during his visit Monday for an event to highlight the importance of community colleges.
“We can get them employed no problem,” said Robert Conner, chairperson of the Automotive Technology program. “Weekly, we are getting phone calls looking for workers.”
Monday’s event at LCCC coincided with the release of a report by the Council for a Strong America that found the country is facing a severe “skills gap” due to the lack of qualified workers with specialized skills. In Pennsylva- nia, more than 170,000 jobs will go unfilled by 2020 if current trends continue, the study said.
Barletta, R-11, Hazleton, said he hears from business owners often that it’s hard to find qualified workers for speciality, blue collar jobs like welding and plumbing.
“I hear, ‘We have work, but we don’t have people to fill the jobs we have,’” Barletta said.
Learning trade skills offered by community colleges like LCCC is a “pathway forward for our country right now,” Barletta said.
George Ran do, human resources manager for Advanced Metals Machining in Olyphant, attended the event and said his company is looking for an engineer and machine operators, jobs that pay between $15 and $29 an hour to start. Skills for those jobs could be learned at LCCC, he said.
“Community colleges provide a path to the middle class,” Rando said.
Bar letta and others expressed support for the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, which provides federal support to career education programs.
“Our community colleges are a key gateway to maintaining a healthy feeder system to ensure our nation’s economy remains competitive,” said Wico van Genderen, chief executive officer of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce.
Community colleges are a better fit than traditional universities, said state Sen. John Yudichak, D-14, Plymouth Twp.
“To them, there’s no better bridge to a better life,” Yudichak said.