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Pennsylvania's In-Demand Occupations

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The PA Department of Education is keeping an eye on emerging careers, according to the director of the bureau of career and technical education. Lee Burket says PDE monitors the PA IDOL to make sure the Commonwealth’s CTCs are preparing students for success today—and in the future.

Occupations on the PA IDOL are grouped in three categories, Today, Tomorrow and Future. Jobs of “Today” usually only require on-the-job training, while jobs of “Tomorrow” require some postsecondary education, such as a certificate or associate degree, and jobs of the “Future” require a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Here are five hot occupations in which Pennsylvania’s Career and Technology students can receive hands-on training.

Today: Welders

Pennsylvania’s the burgeoning natural gas industry and the nation’s infrastructure needs have created a shortage of welders. The PA IDOL projects a 6 percent growth in employment over the next 10 years in PA, but—thanks to a looming wave of retirements—the American Welding Society estimates a national shortage of some 290,000 welders by 2020. Most CTCs have some kind of welding program, entry-level jobs are available to CTC grads, and PA IDOL says average wages can be north of $42,000 per year.

Tomorrow: HVAC Technicians

“There’s huge demand for HVAC technicians, and it’s popular with our students,” says Todd Taylor, of the Central PA Institute to Science and Technology. “Our program is bursting at the seams, and we’re looking to add an evening class.”

Technicians who install and service heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems are hard to outsource, and homes have more sophisticated systems than ever before. PA IDOL projects 11 percent growth in employment by 2024 and technicians earn upwards of $50,000 a year on average. Employers look for graduates with associate degrees or some other postsecondary credential.

Tomorrow: Machinists and Industrial Mechanics

Manufacturing is still the fifth-largest major industry sector in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and it’s projected to employ more than 11 million in 2024. With a median workforce age of 44.7 years and the rapid advance of manufacturing technology, the industry needs an infusion of young, skilled workers. Machinists and industrial machinery mechanics typically have associate degrees, but CTCs are adding robust programs. Employment is projected to grow by 12 and 22 percent, respectively, with average salaries between $40,000 and $50,000 a year.

Future: Computer Systems Analysts and Software Engineers

For a long time, a bachelor’s degree was seen as a necessary ticket into the computing and IT fields. But the fields change so rapidly that the software platform taught in college may be obsolete by the time a student earns her degree. Plus, more industries than ever are using sophisticated software to power their businesses, while investing in cybersecurity personnel.

That’s why CTCs are beefing up programs in computer systems and software engineering, in which employment is expected to grow by up to 20 percent. Wages are booming, averaging upward of $90,000 per year.

Future: Registered Nurses

As all of those aging workers in the skilled trades retire, they put increasing strain on America’s healthcare industry. Registered nurses are the largest employee group in the PA IDOL, and they are still projected to grow by another 14 percent by 2024. Average salaries are more than $68,000, though most new RNs have earned a bachelor’s degree. Still, there are many introductory health care programs at CTCs across Pennsylvania. And it’s not all nursing, or even human care. Lee Burket says programs for veterinary technicians (especially for large animals) and sports medicine are growing as well.

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Click here to see the programs Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology has to offer.

Manufacturing Day 2017

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Flex/Cell Precision is one of a host of companies in Lancaster County participating in a national event known as Manufacturing Day. In fact, Lancaster County intends to make a week of it.

Nationally, Manufacturing Day is a project of the National Association of Manufacturers and aims to “inspire the next generation.” Always the first Friday in October, the event has grown to nearly 3,000 events involving more than a quarter-million students from every state. Last year, President Obama issued a proclamation declaring National Manufacturing Day.

The steering committee planning Lancaster’s event for 2017 believes the industry has outgrown one day. It’s putting together a schedule of events for students, educators, parents and community leaders.

Activities planned or under consideration include:

Field Trips: Students from all 16 school districts in Lancaster County are participating in tours of area manufacturers. The committee is considering developing a virtual field trip for students who remain at school, as well as parents and others.

Family Events: Some manufacturers are opening their doors to parents and interested community members, as well. In addition, Thaddeus Stevens will host a series of presentations for parents throughout the week.

Community Buzz: Look for public service announcements, media stories and more during the week. Join in the conversation at #LancasterMakes and #MFGDay17.

Women Recruting: A grant from the National Science Foundation is funding tours and information sessions at local companies for high school girls. The young women will tour Arconic, Flex/Cell, Dental EZ, Pepperidge Farm and Astro Machine Works, among others, as well as Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology.

“The viability of Lancaster’s manufacturing sector directly impacts families in our community in many ways,” says Janel Cross, president of Align Financial Services Group and chair of the Manufacturing Day steering committee. “As a firm serving many manufacturing clients, we believe more families need to be made aware of the career and wage potential in manufacturing jobs here in the county in order to make more informed decisions about their educational paths.”

It’s not too late for businesses to participate! Contact Janel Cross or Jesse Steffy at Align Financial Services Group at 717.207.9230 or for more information.

For more information and scheduling updates, follow Lancaster Manufacturing Day on Facebook at

Additionally, throughout the fall the Lancaster County Workforce Development Board is collaborating with business, community and education to host a series of “Redefining Career Success” technical career forums. These free career exploration fairs will feature local employers, training providers and skill developers showcasing the many high priority occupations found here in Lancaster County. The events will include workshops for parents of career/college-bound students, discussions with industry leaders, and a chance to win scholarships toward qualifying educational expenses at a local post-secondary institution.

Dates and locations for the events are as follows:

  • Wednesday, 9/20 – Garden Spot High School
  • Wednesday, 10/4 – Quarryville Library Center
  • Thursday, 10/12 – Ephrata Area High School
  • Thursday, 10/19 – HACC – Lancaster Campus – East 203
  • Thursday, 10/26 – Associated Builders and Contractors – Keystone Campus, Mt. Joy
  • Wednesday, 11/8 – Columbia High School Auditorium

All events are open from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., with workshops/breakout sessions from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. For more information, please visit the Lancaster County Workforce Development Board website at