Tech Center, Lampire Link Unique
by Erin Thompson, Gazette Staff Writer; Gazette Photo/Erin Thompson
EVERETT — Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding said he would like Pennsylvania to lead by Bedford County’s example when it comes to preparing young people for the work force.
Specifically, Redding is interested in the link between the Bedford County Technology Center and Lampire Industries and how they work together to integrate education with the job market, he said Thursday when he toured both facilities.
The secretary said there is a misconception with the word “agriculture,” which may deter people from entering the field.
“Agriculture is difficult to define,” he said, adding that many relate the word to farming, but that the “industry is full of opportunity.”
“It’s food. It’s society. It’s civics. It’s science. It’s natural resources — the definition is open ended, but it’s not simply production,” he said.
The technical center serves all six schools in Bedford County, according to Administrative Director David DiPasquale, who added that the center serves middle school and high school students. The center, he said, also recently added an internship program where students can work with Lampire Industries to gain more “hands-on experience.”
Not only did the technical center receive a $103,000 grant from Appalachian Regional Commission recently, its director said the technical center’s enrollment is up.
“Right now, we’re exploding,” said DiPasquale, adding that some students have had to go into their second or third choice of program. “We’re very close to capacity.”
Technical center biotechnology Instructor Scott Myers said when it comes to the agricultural workforce, “there’s got to be a connection between the workforce and academic progress.”
Myers said the program “gives (students) an idea of what they want to do before they spend money on college. Our biotechnology program allows them to see the opportunities that are out there.”
Redding said there is a need for more education in this field, explaining that only one-third of Pennsylvania schools currently have an agriculture science program.
“This limits their opportunity for career exploration,” said Redding. “There are a lot of folks out there who need those good solid skills.”
This is why the technical center and Lampire’s model is intriguing to Redding, he said.
“We want to learn from you on the integration, with the job piece being the outcome,” he said. “We’re trying to figure out how to do that because Bedford County has done it and done it well.”
Lampire President Gregory Krug discussed some of the functions of Lampire and why they are interested in employing young people.
“Training takes a long time and costs a lot of money,” said Krug. “We want to develop a workforce that will have longevity” with the company.
Krug said interacting with the tech center has offered opportunities for both parties that neither would normally have.
“We feel working with the school helps us a way to develop a workforce and gives them and idea of what is needed in this industry,” Krug said.