Guest Commentator: John J. “Ski” Sygielski, Ed. D., President, HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College @HACC_info

In what ways can post-secondary educational institutions prepare our students and citizenry for 21st century jobs?

With an aging, retiring workforce and no dedicated pipeline of “ready-to-work” individuals, manufacturers across Pennsylvania and the country are grappling with the prospect of approximately 2.7 million unfilled jobs – or 22% of the existing workforce – over the next decade.

Community colleges need to position their graduates at the front of the workforce pipeline and collaborate intentionally with businesses to help fill these jobs. At HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, we pride ourselves on innovative partnerships with businesses to meet their needs.

Our Professionally YOURS series and apprenticeship programs provide tools to “upskill” the workforce. Professionally YOURS provides project management, time management and leadership training for front-line supervisors and language skills for non-native English speakers.

Apprenticeships transfer the skills of an aging workforce to new employees, who work full time and take night classes at HACC. The competencies they gain at the worksite, coupled with the technical training they receive through HACC, allows them to “earn as they learn” during the 18-month program.

HACC is the first community college in Pennsylvania to provide an apprenticeship program. The Industrial Manufacturing Technician (IMT) Apprenticeship Program was developed in partnership with Ames Reese and the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. New cohorts for fall 2019 include an emphasis on high schools and a pre-apprenticeship program for high school students in Lancaster County.

In March 2018, HACC launched Pennsylvania’s first Hospitality Apprenticeship Program in partnership with High Hotels to provide low-skilled staff a pathway from entry-level jobs to management.

HACC launched an apprenticeship in tool and die in January 2019 with support and funding from TE Connectivity. This partnership supports a four-year apprenticeship program to train current employees as tool and die makers.

HACC provides work readiness training, pre-apprenticeships and some paid internships through our business partners in home building, health care, heavy equipment and other careers. HACC also partners with secondary schools to identify graduates who choose to delay their postsecondary educational journey. These approaches allow students to explore a career before committing to postsecondary programs, while allowing our industries to stay productive and competitive.

A flexible, high-quality and affordable education does not always have to result in a degree. By listening to the needs of the workforce and entering into intentional partnerships with businesses, we set up our students for career success while providing economic solutions that are practical, effective and easily deployed.


HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, is champion of Grow PA, a statewide initiative to convene people and organizations throughout Pennsylvania to establish a modern economic growth agenda. To learn more, visit grow-pa.com.

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