Lancer Letter


#463: Career Development (Part 2)

If a high school sophomore came to shadow you where you work, would you know what to expect and what to do? If you were put in charge of a tour of a manufacturing plant for 8th graders where you work, would you know what to expect and what to do?

Last week, I shared some of the efforts of the Erie County Career Pathways Alliance to help improve and coordinate career experiences for students in Erie County. I shared information about business advisories that have been, and will be, created to help improve communication among public schools, businesses, workforce programs and higher education.

One of the other functions this group has performed relates to the questions in the opening paragraph. As we tried to get more and more “up close and personal” career-related experiences for students, we realized that the businesses offering the experiences needed to understand what students are like and what things will work. Schools needed to know how to prepare the students for the experience so that maximum benefit is achieved.

So, working together through the ECCPA leadership team, guidelines were developed for business and schools for classroom speakers, workplace tours and presentations by a panel of employers. The documents for this project are posted on the Career Street website – which brings us to my next point.

Career Street ( was started nearly 5 years ago with significant grant funding and support from the business community. The idea was to recruit businesses to supply career experiences – classroom presentations, workplace tours, shadow experiences, internship experiences – and coordinate these with the schools.

The Career Street website has become the “one stop shop” for schools. A teacher can log on and search for a speaker to come to her classroom from many different professions. The teacher can also look for places willing to give tours or provide speakers for a panel. The website is a great resource for the community.

Of course, with all the schools in the county looking for career experiences, the challenge is getting enough businesses to offer their employees to be a part of it. Career Street, also under the auspices of GECAC/Erie Together, employs a full time executive director, Jennifer Pontzer. Jennifer is always recruiting businesses to be part of the program. She also communicates frequently with Career Street liaisons who are in every school.

The funding for ECCPA and Career Street is projected to come from three sources, each covering a third of the costs: school district membership fees, grants, and donations from businesses. The good work of these organizations can only continue if contributions are made and businesses participate. If you have a business or work for one that may be willing to get involved, I encourage you to reach out to these organizations. (I can also put you in touch if you reach out to me.)

Moving beyond local efforts, as I mentioned last week, demographic data is pointing toward a significant need for skilled workers to replace the many baby boomers who have or will shortly retire. Because of this, the federal and state governments have been funding grants for career related projects. In Pennsylvania, these grants are called PASmart Grants

We were the recipient of a PASmart Grant which is being implemented this year. A new field that is emerging relates to drone technology. Drones can be used for many things that may be dangerous to humans. For example, a structural weakness in a mine could be viewed through the camera of a drone flown into the mine, protecting humans from a possible cave-in. A whole new career field related to programming and piloting drones has been created. There will be many opportunities in this field in the future.

Our PASmart grant is designed to give our students a leg up to get into this profession. It is a joint project of the school district, Edinboro University and the North Coast Flight School in Erie. Students will take classes through the college and receive training through North Coast. Our students who complete this program will be ready to take the test for their Drone Pilot License

You will be hearing about many new projects in the next few years that are poised to help our students find a career path and even start down that path. I have to say that the level of cooperation among all the agencies and institutions involved is at the highest level I’ve ever seen. Everyone is working really hard to help our students find the right career path.

Find previous Lancer Letter articles here.