PA Labor & Industry Secretary Jennifer Berrier visits River Valley STEAM Academy

River Valley School District  |  Posted on

Senator Joe Pittman addresses educators and industry leaders at the River Valley STEAM Academy

Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) Secretary Jennifer Berrier today toured the River Valley STEAM Academy with a workforce development education model that prepares students for in-demand careers, including cybersecurity, electrical occupations, and sports medicine and rehabilitative therapy. (River Valley School District was formerly known as the Blairsville-Saltsburg School District)

“With unemployment at historic lows in Pennsylvania, the tight labor market means that workers have options – which is a wonderful thing. It also means that some employers are struggling to find skilled workers for some of the most in-demand jobs. That’s why investment in Pennsylvania’s workforce is so important to our collective future,” Berrier said. “I applaud the River Valley School District for giving students the opportunity to explore careers and build job skills that are immediately relevant to the workforce needs of today and tomorrow. Pennsylvania as a whole will benefit from the innovative education offered at River Valley’s STEAM Academy.”

River Valley’s STEAM Academy is partnered with CompTIA Apprenticeships for Tech with a program that will launch in summer 2023. The CompTIA Apprenticeship Opens In A New Window program would be the first in the United States at the secondary level.

A growing workforce development model in Pennsylvania and nationwide, apprenticeship offers workers paid employment while they learn job skills. Apprentices earn competitive wages, a paycheck from the first day of employment, and incremental raises as their skill levels increase. Established in 2016 under the Wolf Administration, L&I’s Apprenticeship and Training Office (ATO) is responsible for guiding and promoting the expansion and compliance of all registered apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs across the Commonwealth.

“Providing workforce development courses at the high school level gives students early exposure to career opportunities and an education that’s relevant to them,” River Valley School District Superintendent Philip Martell said. “Next year, the STEAM Academy will launch four new programs: agriculture, welding, teacher preparation and powerline. Bridging the need between industry and education gives students real-world skills and sets them up for future success.”

The STEAM Academy currently offers a multitiered cybersecurity course offering industry certifications; an esports course and lab affiliated with the North America Scholastic Esports Federation; an electrical occupations program; and sports medicine and rehabilitative therapy program training students to be athletic trainers, physical therapists, occupational therapists and more.

In addition to building an apprenticeship program at the STEAM Academy, River Valley School District has partnered with postsecondary institutions – including Penn College of Technology – to offer College in High School courses that offer students the opportunity to earn college credit in high school at no cost to the student.

“The STEAM Academy highlights innovation and collaboration in action,” said Eric Hagarty, acting secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Education. “This learning space showcases what we can accomplish when we partner to provide opportunities for our students throughout the Commonwealth. The experiences River Valley students receive through this hands-on program will benefit them for a lifetime.”

In addition to touring the STEAM Academy, Berrier participated in a panel discussion about workforce development education with Martell; Dr. Michael Reed, president of the Pennsylvania College of Technology; Dr. Waleed Farag, director of the IUP Institute for Cybersecurity; Shawn Steffee, executive board trustee of Boilermakers 154; Mark Hilliard, president of the Indiana County Chamber of Commerce; and Beth Carr of Beable World of Work.