Lehigh Valley

Local vocational technical school seeing a major boost

Local vocational technical school seeing a major boost

Millions of young adults head to college campuses every year, but college isn't for everyone.

A local vocational technical school is seeing a major boost in its enrollment.

In four years, the Bethlehem Area Vocational-Technical School's enrollment has grown by about  300 students, even though statewide vo-tech numbers are dropping.

Director Brian Williams attributes the surge to high demand locally.

"The Lehigh Valley is looking for a skilled work force. There's a resurgence in manufacturing -- a high demand for welders, machinists, electricians," Williams said.

All of the school's programs meet strict guidelines, Williams said.

"There has to be potential for the program, for students to leave here with a family-sustaining wage and indication that industry is growing," Williams said.

Hands-on experience through the cooperative program, or co-op, gives students real-life job training.

"You get more on site experience from working with guys who have more knowledge and done that thousands of times," said Nick Korpics, a 2011 graduate.

It was a valuable experience for Nick Korpics, who worked for Chiles & Sillivan during his co-op. When Korpics graduated high school in 2011, he immediately started working full-time for the company.

Local companies rave about the program, too.

"I've had a core of guys for 15 years.  I'd like to continue that.  The best way for me to do that is to get them while they're young," said Seamus Sillivan, vice president of Chiles & Sillivan.

Unlike most college graduates, Korpics entered the workforce debt-free.

The average Pennsylvania graduate walks out owing more than $30,000.

Williams said not going into debt is a major draw for lots of students at the vo-tech school.

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