To meet the growing workforce needs of Western Pennsylvania’s manufacturing sector, Westmoreland County Community College broke ground in July for a state-of-the-art Advanced Technology Center (ATC) which will open next summer.
The $9.4 million ATC will occupy 73,500 square feet at RIDC-Westmoreland (the former Sony plant) in East Huntingdon to house workforce development programs currently located at the WCCC Youngwood Campus.
The goal is for the new Advanced Technology Center to be a community, workforce and economic development asset and help grow the manufacturing industry in the region.
“When it opens next summer, our Advanced Technology Center will provide affordable, state-of-the-art education and training to prepare WCCC students and incumbent workers for high-demand, technically oriented careers.”
“The manufacturing and energy sectors are growing and need a workforce with technical skill sets,” said Doug Jensen, WCCC assistant vice president for workforce education and economic development.
Manufacturing is leading the national economic recovery and in a recent survey, ranked sixth out of 10 employment sectors in the Pittsburgh region.
The ATC will offer programs with an industry-aligned curriculum in areas such as mechatronics, advanced and additive manufacturing, energy, machining and fabrication, and metrology. An occupational advisory committee comprising representatives from regional employers such as Kennametal, Elliott Company and Carpenter Technology Corporation along with National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining review and provide input into the ATC programs’ curricula.
The ATC will house classrooms, labs outfitted with high-tech equipment and open flexible instructional space and will allow for collaborative learning on projects.
“The ATC will provide flexibility and accessibility to students and industry partners by offering short-term, ‘stackable’ certificates in specific technical areas,” said Jensen.
Students can complete a certificate in one semester, allowing them to enter the workforce quickly. When they need additional skills to advance in their career path, they can return to WCCC for another certificate and progress toward an associate degree.
The ATC will also be a link between the student’s high school education and their career. WCCC has articulation agreements with local career and technology centers (CTCs) allowing students to receive college credit for their high school coursework when they enroll at the college. Students who also complete WCCC capstone courses during the junior and senior years will earn a college certificate in addition to their high school diploma when they graduate.
“Our stackable certificates and articulation agreements with the CTCs will give students the opportunity to customize their educational path to suit their career goals,” said Jensen.
“When it opens next summer, our Advanced Technology Center will provide affordable, state-of-the-art education and training to prepare WCCC students and incumbent workers for high-demand, technically oriented careers,” said WCCC President Daniel J. Obara.
“The ATC will be a regional asset for flexible, collaborative, customized job training for the area’s manufacturing enterprises,” Obara said, “providing an incentive for new employers to relocate to the WIDC and nearby industrial parks.”
Anna Marie Palatella