Penta works to prepare students for workplace
Written by MARIE THOMAS BAIRD Sentinel Education Editor
Monday, 26 August 2013 09:45
PERRYSBURG - Local higher education leaders were at Penta Career Centerlast week to tell a state committee how they're handling such issues as dual enrollment and reducing remediation rates.
State Rep. Cliff Rosenberger, chair of the House Higher Education Study Committee, has been inviting Ohioans to participate in the committee's regional hearings.
To date the committee has heard testimony on Higher Education - Workforce Connection and Multiple Higher Education Pathways. Yet to be heard is testimony on Affording Higher Education; Reducing the High Cost of Higher Education; and Serving Non-Traditional Students.
At Penta, the topic was Transitioning to Higher Education and the Workforce.
Also attending the session were Republicans Rep. Tim Brown, Rep. Christina Hagan and Rep.Tim Derickson; and Democrats Rep. Dan Ramos and Rep. Michael Stinziano.
Giving testimony were Ron Matter, superintendent of Penta; Mike Bower, president of Owens Community College; Kevin Milliken, community relations coordinator for Herzing University-Toledo; Shawn Grime, school counselor at Archbold High School and past president of the Ohio School Counselor Association; Nick Nigro, career services director at Davis College-Toledo; and Kathy Vasquez, associate vice president of government relations at the University of Toledo.
The issues addressed at the Aug. 20 session included dual enrollment programs, career counseling, what parents need to know about higher education and improving student preparation/reducing remediation rates.
Matter's testimony and time to answer questions took up nearly half of the two hours planned for the meeting.
"Four years is not the be-all, end-all of education in this state," said Matter.
Penta works to educate its students to join the workforce or complete their education at a post-secondary institution.
But the need is to identify certifications that are valuable and help students reach a decision on what certification they're looking for.
Penta offers 31 career tech programs for students grades 10-12.
Hagan wondered how the school selects the programs it offers.
Matter replied they use feedback from its advisory committee and business partners, and relies on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Brown indicated there is a disconnect that everyone who graduates from high school is ready for a college degree.
"I'm not belittling a four-year degree, but if you can't get a job, what good is it?" Matter asked.
What an HVAC apprentice who graduated from Penta is earning, compared to the debt from a four-year degree, is mind-boggling, he said.
"We are not the right place for all students, but there are a lot more who should take advantage of what career tech has to offer, either through high school or (adult ed) programming," he added.
Bower indicated the educating the citizenry is the biggest hurdle of getting students to participate in dual enrollment options with Owens.
He touted the successful dual enrollment program between Owens and Penta, where 560 students participated. This year, the college is looking to serve 880 juniors and seniors.
Penta enrolls 1,450 on the main campus and 2,800 in satellite programs in member schools.
Owens is addressing the remediation problem by implementing a math emporium to help students who need two or three courses of developmental education before they can register for college classes.
The emporium offers an alternative math sequence that is technology driven and customized for each student's skill level. It is possible for students to move through the sequence faster than one course per semester, thus decreasing the student's time to completion and helping improve retention rates.
Back to career counseling, Grime, the high school counselor, would like to see a state method developed to hold counselors responsible, like teachers now are.
He also would like to see legislation that would mandate K-12 school counseling and implement ratios to ensure access to such services. In 2011, Ohio had a ratio of 480 students to each counselor; Grimes, speaking on behalf of the Ohio School Counselor Association (OSCA), suggested that ratio to changed to 250:1.
OSCA also would like legislation to direct the Department of Education to develop standards for counselors. "School counselors need a state model to guide their work and to guarantee that all students are receiving the same services," Grime stated.
"I believe any efforts made to improve the quality and quantity of school counseling services will have profound impacts on school, college and career outcomes," he concluded.
Rosenberger called the testimony "eye opening."
After hearing other higher education representatives speak, the committee invited three Penta graduates and one employer to stand.
Larry Miller, who earned an HVAC certification through Penta' adult ed program, said "hands-on training is huge for helping me land a job." He said he picked HVAC because of the growth in the industry.
Shaun Downey, who owns Downey Plumbing Heating Cooling and Electrical in Tontogany, said that the training given to students "is second to none."
"I'd hire a guy from Penta over a four-year degree with no experience," Downey stated.
Brian Smelzer and Lamar Stokes, both graduates of Penta's auto tech classes, also spoke highly of the school.
Rosenberger, whose own father was in HVAC, praised the group. "You're all role models."
To learn more of the committee's work, visit: www.ohiohouse.gov/cliff-rosenberger/press/participate-in-the-higher-education-study-committee-hearings