At a Glance
The Career Technology Center of Lackawanna County (CTCLC) collaborates with the Lackawanna County Workforce Development Board (WDB) to provide opportunities to educate students and parents/guardians on local in-demand occupations and the career pathways associated with them. As part of these efforts, CTCLC hosted a middle school summer camp called Weld-a-saurus during which campers constructed a dinosaur using welding techniques; this activity allowed them to gain exposure to the different careers available locally in the areas of welding and fabrication.
Offered to rising 7th, 8th and 9th grade students, Camp Weld-a-saurus focuses on the Engineering and Industrial Technology career pathway, specifically, manufacturing using welding and fabrication. Colleen Stepanovich, Continuing Education Coordinator at CTCLC, points out the decision to focus on this particular pathway was deliberate and based on local workforce needs. She notes, “Jobs associated with welding and advanced manufacturing are expected to grow by double-digit percentages—faster than the overall economy. Getting students interested at a younger age to explore these pathways is our goal.”
The planning and implementation process for the CTE camp spanned several years and involved collaboration and planning among several stakeholders. In 2017, Kyle Linko, the CTCLC welding instructor met with Administrative Director Thomas Baileys and Ms. Stepanovich, Continuing Education Coordinator/Grant Writer to discuss hosting a summer camp for middle school students. Ms. Stepanovich captured the discussion so that a funding source for the program could be explored.
About a year after this discussion took place, the Executive Director of the Lackawanna County Workforce Development Board, Virginia Turanoreached out to Ms. Stepanovich for ideas about a grant on which the Board was working – the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry’s Business Education Partnership (BEP) to support the Commonwealth’s Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Combined State Plan. The grant is designed to support the implementation of “BEP programs that allow school districts to collaborate with local business and local workforce development boards (LWDB) to educate students (future workforce), parents and guardians regarding high-priority occupations and career pathways.” (See https://www.dli.pa.gov/Businesses/Workforce-Development/grants/Pages/default.aspx)
Knowing a CTE summer camp for middle school students aligned well with the goals of the grant, Ms. Stepanovich presented the idea of using the grant to fund such a program to Ms. Turano. She supported the idea. Ms. Stepanovich worked with Dr. Baileys and Mr. Linko to complete a formal proposal including a schedule, timeline, and budget to present to the WDB and County Commissioners as well as to the CTCLC Joint Operating Committee for approval.
Once the grant was awarded, CTCLC staff with the support of the WDB spent the 2018-2019 school year planning the camp program. According to Ms. Stepanovich, “It was a coordinated effort.” Those involved in the project developed the curriculum, organized the logistics, accessed resources and managed the grant requirements. Throughout the project, Ms. Turano helped to ensure delivery, administration and reporting were properly carried out, and Dr. Baileys provided important general support on a day-to-day basis. Ms. Stepanovich managed the project and completed required reporting to the appropriate parties. Mr. Linko developed the camp curriculum and collaborated with local industry partners to arrange for them to speak to campers. He also reached out to vendors to donate time and materials and to cover a pizza party celebration at the end of each camp session.
In addition to planning the logistics and curriculum of the camp, CTCLC needed to market the camps to students. To do this, the Career Resource Coordinator, Alex Zero, organized a marketing campaign focused on social media and email campaigns. The email campaigns reached a wide array of stakeholders, including guidance counselors from sending schools, Occupational Advisory Committee members, local advisory members, superintendents, teacher contacts, and several contacts from the Executive Directors of the Workforce Development Board and CareerLink including WIOA Youth Coordinator. The Creative Communications instructors at CTCLC created and produced a flyer to promote the camp and t-shirts for participants. Once the camp was in session, Ms. Turano, attended the camp for a day along with members of the local news media to observe campers engaged in their project. All of these marketing strategies raised student and community awareness about the camps.
CTCLC hosted the first two Weldasaurus camps in July 2019. Each camp session ran for one week, Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Campers built a “weldasaurus” over the course of the week. CTCLC recruited current students to help out with the camps. They received community service hours for doing so and were an important part of the camp’s success. Due to an overwhelming response to the camps, CTCLC worked with the WDB to fund a third session for 9th grade students, which was planned, filled with 12 students, and delivered within a short period of time due to the cooperation of all the stakeholders involved.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, CTCLC did not offer the camps in summer 2020, but it will offer them again in 2021. Moving forward, CTCLC will make some slight modifications to the camp, and will allot more time for planning and preparation.
Ms. Stepanovich credits the positive working relationships among key stakeholders for the successful development and implementation of the camp program. The local WDB and CareerLink representatives are actively involved in the Perkins Stakeholders Committee, Local Advisory Committee and Cooperative Education Occupational Advisory Committee, and they have regular conversations with CTCLC about these types of projects. Ms. Stepanovich recognizes the importance of this relationship building, noting “You want to be the group that they think about when they are looking for partners to work with them when these types of opportunities become available.”
Twelve students attended each camp session for 7th and 8th graders. Eleven students attended the 9th grade session. Each session had perfect attendance.
Overall, CTCLC has received positive feedback about the camps as documented in responses to student and parent surveys. Students indicated they enjoyed completing the hands-on project. Parents found the camp to be well organized and inquired about how to enroll in the next camp session. Both students and parents gave positive feedback about the instructor, noting his helpfulness and enthusiasm.
Career Technology Center of Lackawanna County
Colleen Stepanovich, Continuing Education Coordinator