Career pathways subject of Penn College roundtable discussion
Industry leaders and public officials taking part in a roundtable discussion Thursday considered ways for helping students decide on careers in the manufacturing, health care and energy career fields.
Among the participants was Matt Fisher, director of Workforce Development with the Williamsport Area School District, who stressed the need for developing connections between industry and education.
It includes parental involvement in their career choices, he noted.
“We are challenged with pushing kids out of buildings and into seeing workplaces,” he said.
After all, many students simply don’t know what is out there.
“Connectivity is important,” he said.
Shannon Munro, vice president of Workforce Development, Pennsylvania College of Technology, stressed the need for students to job shadow and talk to potential employers.
Steven P. Johnson, president of UPMC in North Central Pa., said the key for finding a career is to first get experience.
“We as employers have to work harder to involve kids in our organizations,” he said. “We can’t afford to be passive.”
Shannon Massey, senior vice president and general manager of Lycoming Engines, noted that there are so many opportunities for people at companies such as her own.
And, many industries offer tuition reimbursement allowing an employee to learn while on the job.
Joe McGinn, vice president of public affairs, Energy Transfer, said a young employee may well start working in one career field and end up in another at a company.
“You never know what happens after you get a degree,” he said.
Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce President Jason Fink noted that today’s workforce simply offers multiple choices and many people are looking to change jobs repeatedly.
“It’s not a bad thing to take many different jobs,” he said.
State Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township, said it’s important for people to have a base of experience not necessarily in any particular career field.
“The jobs you have are important,” he said.
His own career path, he noted, was rather circuitous, involving college, the military, and an unexpected decision to go to law school.
Originally, he thought he wanted to be an engineer.
“I was good at math,” he explained.
Munro said pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeships are beneficial for people exploring careers.
Johnson noted that health care has been through a challenging time during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly with retaining nurses in the workplace.
Part of the nursing shortage, is due to aging nurses reaching retirement age, but also employee burnout
Johnson said retaining employees hinges on supporting them in the workplace.
“You have to listen to them,” he said. “Keep them engaged. Support them on a day-to-day basis.”
Massey agreed that listening to the needs of employees is important.
Yaw said technology education needs to be better funded.