Industries look to high school grads to fill skills gap

CARLISLE, Pa. (WHTM) – There are a lot of construction projects and not enough construction workers. A workforce task group in Cumberland County is hoping to change that, starting at the high school level.

“Oh, I can’t name off the top of my head,” Jim Gleim said, talking about all his current projects in Cumberland County.

Gleim is the president of John W. Gleim Jr., Inc., an excavating company in the Carlisle area.

“A couple hundred projects a year,” he estimated, “easily.”

But he doesn’t always have the workers to keep up.

“Now, I believe we’re about 20 people short today,” he said. “We’ve been running lean for a long time. Our guys are running a lot of overtime to make up for the shortage.”

He says the problem is recruitment.

“Hiring good quality employees and getting the younger generation to want to work in the construction industry instead of going to college,” he said.says Gleim.

Laura Potthoff of the Cumberland Area Economic Development Corporation started a committee to reconnect secondary education with specific industry needs in Cumberland County.

“Cumberland Valley School District is 9,000 students,” Potthoff said. “So, if you’re going to build a pipeline to meet the growing demands in the county, you would want to start with a pilot program with Cumberland Valley.”

Her research found areas in need to include construction, health care, and advanced manufacturing. The three areas have all seen considerable growth in the region and continue to expand.

“What we’re hearing from industry and business, obviously, are the soft skills. It’s important to be analytical, be a problem-solver, use technology, communicate well,” Cumberland Valley Superintendent Fred Withum said.

That’s what the district built its curricula on. The classes will hopefully be ready for students to take this summer.

“Everything we are doing gets layered on after the students meet their minimum requirements for a high school diploma,” Withum said.

“They can begin making $30,000 to $50,000 with no college debt,” Potthoff said.

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