At a Glance
The strong collaborative relationship between Berks Career & Technology Center (BCTC) and Berks County Workforce Development Board (WDB) is integral to the funding and development of new programs and a STEAM Career Exploration camp.
To address the workforce development needs of the region, BCTC and the Berks County WDB effectively coordinate services and engage in ongoing communication to support employers and employees, students and the larger community. This partnership ensures resources are put into skill development at the BCTC, and it also brings together employers and labor groups to address common and overlapping workforce needs.
Over the years, the Berks County WDB has supported BCTC in various forms. For example, WDB members have served on BCTC’s Berks Executive Council to advise, recruit and sanction members for the Occupational Advisory Committees (OAC) at BCTC. To do this, the members make connections with industry leaders and network year-round on behalf of BCTC.
This profile captures some of the ways in which BCTC and the Berks County WDB work together.
Identifying Industry Trends and Employment Needs
The WDB gathers and analyzes data from local industries to create the high priority occupations list, noting jobs that provide sustainable wages, benefits, and have the greatest potential for economic growth. It also identifies occupations that face serious challenges of growth or retention. The WDB then disseminates this information to the schools of Berks County. BCTC will ensure its current programs align to meet the needs on the high priority occupations list. “The Workforce Development Board is an integral part of the BCTC community,” stated Dr. Kraft, Executive Director of BCTC. “They manage the pulse of the local industry and keep BCTC updated to industry trends and employment needs.”
BCTC used the information from the high priority occupations list to develop the Heavy Equipment Operations program, which launched in the 2020-21 school year and reached capacity by the second year. BCTC hired an additional instructor to meet the demand for the adult students in BCTC’s Continuing Education Heavy Equipment Operations program, confirming the results of the WDB’s industry research.
“Our Workforce Development Board’s relationship with BCTC is comprehensive, dynamic, strategic and most importantly impactful,” stated Dan Fogarty, Chief Operating Officer of Berks County WDB. “During my career, I have worked with many good CTCs across the Commonwealth but have never seen one better than BCTC at taking timely input on local industry needs and quickly translating them into high quality, technically challenging programs leading to great careers in key local industries. Our employers know that BCTC is a “go to” institution that will meet their need.”
Comprehensive Local Needs Assessment
The Berks County WDB provides data and information to BCTC for the Comprehensive Local Needs Assessment. (This assessment is completed every two years and is the basis for local Perkins V application development and future funding decisions.) The WDB created a rubric to evaluate the projected employment demand of program-related occupations and the corresponding career and wage growth potential students at BCTC and other schools could achieve. This simple but effective rubric gave prioritization of Perkins V funding to the in-demand programs and has been adopted as a best practice for many other local areas in Pennsylvania.
STEAM Career Exploration Camps
The WDB helps review Labor & Industry grants for BCTC. Through one of these grants, BCTC funded a STEAM Career Exploration Camp for seventh and eighth grade students from BCTC’s sixteen sending school districts. The camp raised student awareness about career opportunities and provided them with hands-on experiences to highlight the practical application of STEAM and to develop their technical skills.
The 2020 STEAM Career Exploration Camp was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but with the assistance of the WDB, BCTC was able to revise the grant and request the monies be reallocated for virtual technology for outreach purposes. BCTC chose materials specifically to allow alternate experiences of the career exploration opportunities it usually offered. The materials were purchased for middle school students, but they can be utilized for elementary and high school students as well.
- 30 Oculus Virtual Reality headsets – Give students a 360° virtual tour of each program at BCTC.
- Two iPads – Used to create and record videos and virtual presentations for elementary, middle, and high school students.
- 10 Breakout EDU boxes – Similar design to an escape room, but instead of escaping out of a room, students must solve a series of puzzles to break into a box.
- One-year subscription to Breakout EDU – A digital escape room was designed for middle and elementary students. It provides an engaging experience focused on BCTC’s seven career clusters.
“Our fourth graders loved the digital escape room,” reported a fourth-grade teacher. “They had never heard of BCTC, but were really excited when they heard about all the different programs.”
The working relationship between BCTC and the Berks County WDB has developed into a partnership that benefits schools, industries, and the community in both the short- and long-term. Both BCTC and the Berks County WDB look forward to continuing to cultivate this relationship so that local workforce needs are addressed in a comprehensive and coordinated manner.
Berks Career & Technology Center
Nan Parks, Outreach Coordinator