The York County School of Technology played host to an important conversation: Should districts have to pay the majority of costs to send students to technical schools?

PA Schools Work and partner Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children released a report, discussed at the school Thursday, Jan. 17, that highlighted the need for more state funding.

In this year's state budget, the governor set aside $30 million for workforce development — and of that amount, $10 million went to career and technical education subsidies to allow students to attend schools such as York Tech.

But some say more is needed, since approximately 55,000 students attend 74 CTE centers across the state, and districts foot about 90 percent of the bill. 

Despite being the first increase in state CTE funding in nearly a decade, the state's subsidy only covers about 8 percent of student costs, plus roughly 2 percent from federal funding, said PPC president and CEO Kari King.

This burden, along with rising basic education costs, has caused some districts to reduce enrollments at CTE schools, said Jackie Cullen, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of Career and Technical Administrators.

PA Schools Work and its partners are calling for an additional $10 million in the subsidy in next year's budget.

Shortage of workers: Fewer students attending tech schools correlates with fewer new employees in the workforce, which affects the local economy, King said.

According to a 2013 study conducted by the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, more than half of surveyed Pennsylvania companies found it much harder to find qualified employees in the last five years — a trend expected to continue over the next five.

Skills in agriculture are becoming particularly scarce, with 191,350 openings projected in the field's top 20 positions between 2015 and 2024, according to the state Department of Agriculture.

State Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York Township, believes it's a matter of changing the view that only a traditional college experience can lead to a high-paying job.

State Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, said his father, who was a tool and die maker, thought of the job as “dirty work,” but he had no college debt and was able to provide for a family of four.

“All the other industries feed off of manufacturing” and exported services, said state Rep. Mike Jones, R-Dallastown, and as baby boomers retire, many more who are trained in vocational skills are needed.

York Tech students agree that their education at the school has been invaluable.

"Everything now today is basically technology," said senior Jackie Nguien.

Ireland Parker, who is studying to be a pharmacist, said she accompanied her local Skills USA group, along with other groups across the country, to Washington, D.C., in September to advocate for technical education.

Legislators act: Local legislators are working to pass nine bipartisan state bills, which will be introduced in the House during the next session. Two of them made it through the Senate in the last session but were ultimately vetoed by the governor.

They focus on issues such as gaining tax credits for donations aimed at workforce opportunities, reducing the credits needed for technical educators and increasing awareness of workforce needs in schools.

Additionally, a couple of bills are aimed at simplifying the process in which new programs are approved and ensuring career and technical educators are included on workforce development boards.

"You need to be able to move with the economy in career and technology," Grove said. "It changes daily."

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