LCTI breaks ground for center
Lehigh Career and Technical Institute administrators, staff and students and local school administrators broke ground March 14 for a new $4.25 million welding technology center. Speakers at the groundbreaking ceremony included LCTI Executive Director Dr. Thomas J. Rushton, Director of Career and Technical Education Kurt Adam, Joint Operating Committee Vice Chairman Gary Fedorcha, state Rep. Ryan Mackenzie, R-134th, and Pennsylvania Deputy Secretary for Workforce Development Eileen Cipriani.
“Today celebrates the combination of two years of planning and design by our administrative team, joint operating committee, our superintendents, discussions with all our sending school boards, input from our teachers, our occupational advisory committees and the entire team of professionals from Watkins Architect, Barry Isett and Associates and North Whitehall Township,” Rushton said in his opening comments.
Rushton said LCTI’s current lab is just over 6,000 square feet, with two instructors and 50 students per session. He said the new welding center will have more than 12,000 square feet with a monumental step forward in instructional space — 40 booths and 10 work stations.
“When this project is complete LCTI’s welding center will take a major evolutionary step forward toward filling the institute’s mission,” Rushton stated. “Welders build the world we live in, and the demand for this trade remains high and will continue as retirements, infrastructure needs and advances in technology all impact future needs for skilled technicians in this field.”
Adam said LCTI students will develop their skills in what will be the premier welding educational facility in the state.
“Again, this new facility will provide our students a wealth of opportunities to work, train and learn the state of the art equipment in a state of the art facility that is by far second to none,” Adam said. “Students at LCTI will gain valuable experiences that will vault them to the forefront of any employer.”
Fedorcha said years ago, LCTI’s welding lab was the first in the area to be certified as a school district for the American Welding Society.
“This groundbreaking is going to take us to another dimension here at LCTI,” he stated.
Mackenzie said as vice chairman of the House Labor and Industry Committee and someone who also serves on the Pennsylvania Workforce Development Board, he travels the state and sees the different opportunities for students.
“The thing is here at LCTI, we have a program that is second to none. We also have students [who] are second to none, and now we are going to have a welding facility that is second to none,” Mackenzie stated.
“To help expose young students to available career opportunities and connect with employers, I once again had the opportunity to introduce my career bound legislation,” Mackenzie said. “This legislation and the design of it is to introduce students and expose them to career opportunities early in their careers in middle and high school, so by the time they get to a decision where they have to choose between LCTI or career prep classes or anything else, they are already going to have a good understanding of what these fields are, what they look like and what their career opportunities may be.”
Cipriani said she has had the privilege of visiting of 30 career and technical schools throughout the commonwealth.
“I can echo what state Rep. Mackenzie just said: ‘This facility is second to none.’ It is very progressive, it’s cutting edge, and (it) offers great opportunities to students in this region,” she stated.
Cipriani said Gov. Tom Wolf wants Pennsylvania to be the strongest work force in the country, and that is what its economic future depends on — a well-educated and highly trained work force.
“The governor launched his PAsmart initiative last year to bolster STEM education, apprenticeships and job training,” she stated. “The governor’s budget proposal built on the success of PAsmart this year, to create opportunities for Pennsylvanians from birth to retirement.
“The governor’s Statewide Workforce, Education, and Accountability Program expands access to early childhood education, increases investments in schools and partners with the private sector to build on the PAsmart initiative.”
LCTI welding technology fourth-year student Bradley Gardner from Emmaus High School and third-year student Jordan Everett from Southern Lehigh High School also commented on the welding program and their future career plans.
“Here at LCTI you learn the four welding processes. We practice them on several different types of material,” Gardner said. “The reason I took welding is because it seemed enjoyable, and it opens multiple different career paths for you.”
“Upon graduation, I want to join the steamfitters or pipefitters union,” he stated. “If that doesn’t work, I want to get a job where I can do stick welding.”
Everett said he took up welding after watching his dad.
“I have been on a co-op program with Schlosser Steal Inc. in Hatfield,” Everett stated. “I am hoping to spend my last semester here at LCTI in the new welding technology center.”
The new center is expected to be completed and ready to welcome students in fall 2020.