Welcome back CV! To kick off the second half of the school year, I thought I would invite Dr. Dan Daneker, Supervisor of Science and Technology Education, to discuss how CV is tackling the “skills gap” we are seeing in the greater community.
Technology education at Conestoga Valley encompass STEM-related fields (science, technology, engineering and math). These courses range from traditional wood and metal classes to courses in photography, video, graphics, plastics, engineering and aviation. They all are connected with a theme of creativity and problem solving.
Conestoga Valley has always had a strong industrial arts program, which was renamed technology education in the 1990’s. Many people may remember the days in the 1950’s – 1970’s when only the boys took “shop” and girls took home economics. As technology education classes have become more inclusive, so did the need for more skills-based education. In these modern day “shop” classes, students learn about skills that we as a country desperately need. With the baby-boomers entering retirement, we are facing a “skills gap” like we have never seen. It is estimated that nearly 2 million jobs, many of them in manufacturing, will go unfilled between 2015 and 2025 due to the skills gap.
Consequently, one may ask, “Why is this happening?” Several factors are in play. As technology advances, we are making more and more single-use items. When is last time you had a television repair person fix your TV? Printers are sometimes cheaper than new ink cartridges. Our world is changing constantly. What many people may not realize is that, historically, when most kids entered the old junior high system at Conestoga Valley, they came to school with basic knowledge of things like; hand tools, how to thread a nut to a bolt, the difference between a screw and nail, what a welder does, etc. This is no longer the case. Today, many students are not getting exposed to technical education at home; therefore, it becomes the job of our technology education teachers to fill in the gaps and take them further with needed advanced skills.
At Gerald G. Huesken Middle School, our students in technology education classes are learning how to write code for robots, weld, and create things with 3D printers, as well as hands-on experiences using traditional skills and techniques. They are learning how to systematically solve problems and create tangible solutions. These STEM skills are further enhanced and augmented in our high school, as each of these areas is expanded and a deeper, richer technology education experience can be provided to the students at CV. Ask any local manufacturer what skills they need the next generation of workers to bring to the job and you’ll likely hear a summary of skills presented in many of our Conestoga Valley technology education course syllabi.
As a school district, it is important to reflect on our STEM offerings and how these opportunities can better serve our students and community. The skills gap is an ever-present concern with our middle school and even high school students. With the opportunities in Lancaster County for amazing post high school technical education (such as Thaddeus Stevens, the Lancaster County Career and Technical Center, Pennsylvania Heath Sciences, and other institutions) and wonderful options for high paying STEM careers in these technical fields, Conestoga Valley strives to “meet the students where they are” and provide them with quality instruction that helps them achieve their full potential. We appreciate the continued support of all facets of the Conestoga Valley community as we work to meet this lofty goal and to fill in the skills gap.