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The bridge program at SCCTC allows high school students to earn college credits as they are being trained and certified for their future jobs.
Susquehanna County Career & Technology Center welding students Lucas Marco and Lynda Lawrence have had slightly different experiences in the welding program at Susquehanna County Career and Technology Center, but what they have in common speaks of the school’s recipe for success and gives both of them high hopes for the future.
“They really do care about your education and want you to succeed,” Lynda said of her instructors. She is the daughter of Justin and Desiree Lawrence and has been in the program for three years, one of the last freshmen to move into the tech school before high enrollment necessitated some restrictions.
“They really leave it up to you how much you want to succeed,” Lucas countered. Son of Nick and Kim Marco, Lucas added, “If they see that you want to work hard, they will push you.”
SCCTC was initially created to provide technical training for students looking for local jobs with sustaining wages after high school. The school got a boost when natural gas exploration and extraction began a decade ago. Companies like Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation not only donated funds and equipment but also worked with the school’s occupational and advisory committee to help shape the school’s curriculum to meet the growing needs of the gas industry with local residents.
In addition to small engine mechanics, auto repair, carpentry and nursing, SCCTC was encouraged to add CDL certification, heavy equipment maintenance and welding. The school has since diversified to include food management, cosmetology, building maintenance and criminal justice. Five school districts in Susquehanna County and two in Wyoming County send students to the school in Dimock, and now SCCTC students have the opportunity to earn college credits before graduating from high school.
Lucas, who attended Susquehanna High School through his sophomore year is participating in the Bridge Program, a partnership between the SCCTC and the Lackawanna College School of Petroleum and Natural Gas in New Milford. He moved to SCCTC two years ago because he thought welding was “a good skill to have,” noting that his father was a welder. Engineering classes at Lackawanna now have him aspiring to be a well tender.
Nearly a dozen students like Lynda and Lucas have taken advantage of the dual-enrollment program so far via Cabot-funded scholarships. Students tell SCCTC executive director Alice Davis that they can relate to the process because it has a purpose it. “It taught me work ethic,” Lucas said of the college-level courses. “The teacher really expects us to come in and get our work done.”
Lackawanna College administrators are preparing these students for the “great crew change” that the American Petroleum Institute predicts will take place in the next five to seven years. The natural gas industry is well-established in other parts of the nation and will soon lose up to 50 percent of its workforce to retirement. That means an even greater demand for graduates of Lackawanna College’s SP&NG in Measurement, Technology, Industrial Mechanics and Business Administration, each of them nationally-recognized programs within the school’s curriculum.
Five years from now, Lynda would like to be working in the gas and oil fields in Texas, though she wouldn’t turn down the right job closer to home if offered. She comes from a family of welders and used to help her father with projects, learning stick welding along the way. At the Career Center, she has also excelled in MIG and TIG and higher forms of welding.
Lucas and Lynda are racking up the certifications through the SCCTC too, reeling off AWS (American Society of Welding) codes that sound like a foreign language to most adults, let alone other students their age. In addition to the high marks they give their instructors, Ray Ingaglio and Heather Charles, Lucas and Lynda agree that the camaraderie they enjoy with fellow students and staff members enhances their education and bolsters their confidence.
“You build a lot of friendships, and you learn from their experiences,” Lynda remarked, noting in a previous interview that being the only girl in her class has been empowering.
“It’s a great opportunity to make new friends,” Lucas concurred. “Having adult students here presents additional opportunities to learn.”
Lucas will continue at Lackawanna next year with the assistance of a $10,000 O’Neill Scholarship from his high school, and Lynda is hoping to gain some practical experience this summer at an auto body shop near Tunkhannock. She will graduate from the SCCTC and Elk Lake High School next year but has not yet picked a college.
Lynda and Lucas agree that tech school is not for everyone. Lucas admits that he cannot sit still in a classroom for very long and encourages those who like to work hard to look at the opportunities presented by the SCCTC.
“We are trying to prepare students for future jobs and not the past,” said Davis, noting that the curriculum is constantly being reevaluated. “These jobs are geared toward students who want to make a living working with their hands. The training is short-term and contextual to real life. The students know that there is a high potential to get a good job when they finish.”