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Q&A with Lehigh Career & Technical Institute’s Sandra Himes

By LVEDC Staff on August 13, 2013

 Q.  How has LCTI grown from a local career technical school to a nationally renowned institution?

A. We began by focusing on the career & technical programs and made sure they were the best of the best.  It is the philosophies of the school that drives what we do. State of the art equipment.  Our philosophy is that you must purchase and train students on equipment used by the companies.  We also believe that students can learn basic skills on advanced equipment but cannot learn advanced skills on basic equipment.  We do not train for entry-level positions.  We are training students to those advanced skilled jobs. For instance, in Precision Machine—we train our students to be programmers of CNC not operators of CNC machines. Involvement of business/industry on the programs: LCTI has well over 600 Occupational Advisory Council (OAC) members that work with our teachers to review curriculum, provide advice on equipment purchased for the program, and to ensure safety measures are intact in every program. Each one of our programs has a very active OAC that meet with our teachers at least two times a year.  They look at the skills we are teaching and tell us what we should or should not eliminate or add. Our teachers cannot purchase any equipment without the approval of the OAC.  The OAC must be made up of people actually working in the field so their recommendations are based on what is needed for the industry.

Q. What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the nation’s workforce – and our high school student who are looking at careers? 

A. There are many people who are unemployed in the country yet there are many jobs available employers cannot fill particularly in the manufacturing industry.  The problem is the jobs that are out there are high-skilled jobs.  Potential employees must have technical training to obtain those positions. The days of leaving high school and getting a great paying job without having skills are gone and will not return.  Unfortunately, parents and students are not knowledgeable about the actual job market and the potential for a great career. Most parents and students think the only way to a good-paying job is through a four-year college degree.  Regrettably, many young people are not getting jobs after college and are left with staggering debt.

Education and business and industry must get on the same page to educate students and their parents about opportunities in a variety of careers that do not require college debt but will provide family-sustaining wages.

Q. On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges faced by businesses-locally and nationally?

A. The lack of skilled workers to work in the high-skilled positions is the number one complaint we hear today from employers. How do we get more people into the pipeline for the available jobs? We cannot produce enough workers to meet the need of our business/industry partners. Another issue is how to keep their current employees up to date with their skills. We actually do training for one of the local companies in their California plant because they could not find a school like LCTI to provide the training needed for their employees. Some companies do not have training dollars in their budgets to keep their current workforce trained and the availability state and federal workforce development training dollars has decreased significantly.

Q. What message do you have for area students and maybe more importantly for their parents as far as education and career prep is concerned?

 A. High-wage, high-demand and high-skilled jobs exist in manufacturing and in other industries with pathways to supervisory and management positions.  The opportunity exists to work and earn money while attending college to get a degree; in fact, many employers will pay for the tuition costs.

Focus on career opportunities in companies that have positions available.  Study the job market.  Understand the careers.  Talk to business and industry about job opportunities.  Consider a school like LCTI to learn the skills needed for those high-wage jobs.  Call and tour of the school to see and hear about the training offered.

Concentrate on developing strong work ethics.  Even the best trained employee will not keep a job if they don’t show up every day and put in a good day of work.  They must be able to get along with others in a work environment and they must look the part, speak the part, and continually improve their technical skills.

Q. What areas of career training does LCTI offer and what lies ahead for the school?

 LCTI offers over 45 programs that prepare students in grades 9-12 for a variety of careers in the following career clusters.

  1. Business & Communication such as Marketing Education and Office Technology & Accounting
  2. Health & Human Services such as Cosmetology, Culinary Arts, Health Occupations, Early Care & Education of Young Children
  3. Engineering & Industrial Technologies with three sub-clusters of manufacturing (Precision Machining, Electro-mechanical, Pre-Engineering), transportation (Auto Technology, Auto Body, Small Gas Engines, and construction (Carpentry, Electrical Technology, Cabinetmaking).
  4. Arts & Humanities such as Advertising Design and Commercial Photography.

LCTI also operates a robust Adult/Continuing Education program serving unemployed and underemployed adults.  We also offer customized job training for area businesses particularly in the manufacturing arena.

For more information about our program offerings, visit www.lcti.org.

What lies ahead is that we will continue to do what we do best—listen to the needs of business and industry and develop or maintain all of our technical programs around those needs.

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