May 17, 2023:

Career & Technical Education: A Pathway to Opportunity

The House Republican Policy Committee held a tour and public hearing, hosted by Rep. Staats at the Upper Bucks County Technical School, to discuss the career and technical education opportunities available to students throughout Pennsylvania. Career and technical education provide students with lifelong skills, immediate entry into family-supporting careers, and negates the need for the next generation to incur college debt. Opportunity is everywhere within our career and technical schools, hope for a better future is abound, and empowered students are busy pursuing their passions long before graduating high school.

The testifiers that joined the Policy Committee were as follows:

Career & Technical Education Opportunities

Dr. Michael Herrera - Executive Director, Upper Bucks County Technical School

Rich Matthias - Instructor, Upper Bucks County Technical School

Career & Technical Education Outcomes

Raymond Slifer - Graduate, Upper Bucks County Technical School and Junior Manufacturing Engineer, Bracalente Manufacturing

John Maketa - Strategic Advisor – Workforce Development

Agenda - Bios – Testimony

Career & Technical Education Opportunities Panel

Host of the day’s tour, Executive Director Dr. Michael Herrera, began the hearing by sharing the increased public interest in Upper Bucks County Technical School and the growth seen in the student body and facilities in recent years. Career and Technical Education Schools like Upper Bucks, also called CTE Schools, enable high school students from the surrounding area to pursue a trade and career long before high school graduation. CTE schools are open to all public-school students, and are now available to home-school students as well. As current generations contend with college debt and niche degrees, Dr. Herrera and CTE schools like his are enabling our next generation to begin their lives with immense skill and limitless opportunity.

Interest in CTE Schools is on the rise. Upper Bucks County Technical School currently has a 170-student waiting list, and efforts to expand classes and resources to accommodate larger student bodies are underway. Our high school students are recognizing the benefits of pursuing a career sooner-than-later, as the opportunities available through CTE Schools enables increased independence, career stability, and greater earning potential than a high school diploma alone. On average, CTE graduates make $5,000 more than non CTE counterparts immediately after graduation. Increased income and a real-world skill, combined with ZERO debt, is very compelling for young Pennsylvanians.

Dr. Herrera shared the means by which Upper Bucks prepared students for the real-world immediately upon graduation. Upper Bucks County Technical School partners with local industry and experts to supply the materials and teaching aids necessary to prepare their students for future careers. Technology is advancing at an ever-increasing pace, and Upper Bucks relies on local industries to share their machines and know-how to develop curriculum and training relevant to in-demand industries. Funding for Upper Bucks County Technical School stems from Pennsylvania’s public school funding formula, federal supplemental funding through the Carl Perkins’ Act, and partnerships with local industry. Investments in CTE Schools pay dividends on our future, and Upper Bucks County Technical School is a boon to the local community, local industry, and the state.

“Career & Technical Education is the key to unleashing the true power of our students, communities, and economy.”

Dr. Michael Herrera
Executive Director, Upper Bucks County Technical School

Following the birds eye view of Upper Bucks County Technical School by Dr. Herrera the Committee was joined by school instructor Rich Matthias to share his in-the-classroom perspective. Mr. Matthias, like many CTE instructors, began with a successful career in the private sector, and now teaches “mechatronics” at Upper Bucks County Technical School. He expressed his joy in seeing the growth in his students, the opportunities in their future, and hearing of their successes after graduation. “Mechatronics” and robotics classes are in high demand by our industry, and Mr. Matthias is preparing high school students with the skills they need to pursue valuable careers immediately upon graduation.

The opportunities available through Mr. Matthias’ class and the programs available through CTE schools cannot be found in traditional K-12 schooling. Upper Bucks County Technical School students built components for NASA, fix and maintain all manner of vehicles at a professional level, work with the public to provide beautician and dental care, manage pets and farm animals, bake and cook exquisite meals, and much more all within the confines of a normal school day. Their teachers, often real-world professionals with a lifetime of experience, hold the students to a high standard and ensure that they are capable of pursuing their chosen career upon graduation.

Mr. Matthias shared the difficulty in pursuing a career in CTE education. At this time, the only schools within Pennsylvania that offer CTE teacher certifications are Temple University and Penn State. Career professionals like Mr. Matthias are required to take classes outside of what is arguably necessary, retake classes because past credits are not recognized, and travel to a classroom far from their CTE school. In short, the process to pursue a CTE teaching degree is onerous and the professional qualifications of the prospective teacher and past credits should be considered in the degree and licensing process. We need more CTE teachers just as much as we need more CTE students.

“CTE programs help to bridge the divide between education and industry.”

Rich Matthias
Instructor, Upper Bucks County Technical School

Career & Technical Education Outcomes Panel

Hearing testimony from school faculty is enlightening, but the most honest perspective comes from CTE students. Raymond Slifer, a recent graduate of Upper Bucks County Technical School, shared his experience with the Machining Technologies Program and the opportunities it presented to him immediately upon graduation. Before Raymond began his testimony he wanted to make one point clear, CTE schools are a viable option for students of all abilities.

Raymond earned a 4.0~4.2 GPA, is an Eagle Scout, and was the first-ever Pennsylvanian CTE student to win the United State Presidential Scholar Award. He is a stellar student, very driven and intelligent, and found CTE to be the ideal path for a student of his abilities and aspirations. He could have gone to college, likely with scholarships and ease, but after weighing his options and considering his passions, Raymond determined that a CTE education provided him with unlimited opportunity and NO DEBT.

Raymond found that he could get real-world experience with the same tools he would use in his career through the facilities and equipment available at Upper Bucks County Technical School. He, along with some of his classmates, participate in paid co-ops with local industry enabling the immediate use of their skills and the benefits of a paycheck. The partnerships between local industry and CTE schools fast track the employment of recent graduates, and Raymond secured a career with Bracalente Manufacturing as a Junior Manufacturing Engineer the moment he graduated high school. He had previous experience with Bracalente through his in-school co-op program, developed a relationship with the manufacturing company and proved his abilities, and recieved a job offer in-hand before he even completed his schooling. CTE schools enabled Raymond to graduate high school with limitless opportunity, immediate independence, and NO COLLEGE DEBT.

“My education journey has led me to be 20 years old, earning over $50,000 a year with unlimited room for advancement and NO COLLEGE DEBT.”

Raymond Slifer
Graduate, Upper Bucks County Technical School and Junior Manufacturing Engineer, Bracalente Manufacturing

The day’s final testifier is a cheerleader for CTE schools and workforce development, John Maketa. John is a Strategic Advisor for Workforce Development related issues, and is a bestselling author of “Leading with Vision” and “ Now You’re Thinking.” He brought enthusiasm, abject reality, and cold hard facts to the day’s hearing.

CTE is security for the future. Sectors of our economy are bracing for the impact of AI, outsourcing of industries, and advanced automation, but those risks do not impact CTE graduates. A robot cannot be a plumber, carpenter, or fix our vehicles. The skills and trades learned through a CTE school cannot be outsourced, are applicable in every region of the country, and are immune to the technological advances actively replacing existing industries. CTE graduates are given skills, hope, and boundless opportunity through the education they receive at Upper Bucks County Technical school and other CTE schools throughout the state.

Though demand is high for CTE skills Pennsylvania lags in student enrollment. PA ranks 36th out of all 50 states, with only 6.42% of students enrolled in a CTE program. To increase this percentage, students and parents need to be familiarized with the benefits of CTE and the Commonwealth can increase incentives, resources, and funding for CTE programs. The lack of debt burdening a student’s future will enable them to purchase homes, start families, and immediately invest in their communities. Investments in CTE are investments in the future of Pennsylvania.

“You can’t train someone to weld on ZOOM!”

John Maketa
Strategic Advisor – Workforce Development

Touring the Upper Bucks County Technical School and speaking with students and teachers amounted to an inspiring day for the House Republican Policy Committee. Obstacles impeding a student’s future, namely debt, can be avoided via a CTE school all while providing lifelong skills and limitless potential. There is no single path through life, and all options should be considered when planning for the future. CTE offers experience, opportunity, and real-world training for in-demand careers to students of all abilities. The Policy Committee was thankful for the insight provided, the testimony received, and the hope inspired in our children’s and Commonwealth’s shared future.