A new degree program being offered in Meadville will help fill the gap between the high-level local manufacturing positions jobseekers want and the high-level job skills local manufacturing employers need, according to area education officials and business leaders.

Edinboro University of Pennsylvania President Julie E. Wollman formally announced Monday that EUP’s new Associate of Applied Science in Applied Technology degree — developed in collaboration with Precision Manufacturing Institute and other regional training institutions — begins this fall, exclusively at EUP’s Parkside Commons facility in Meadville and the university’s Porreco Center in Erie.

“Employment figures show there are thousands of people in our region who want jobs, yet hundreds of jobs are going unfilled everyday due to a lack of qualified applicants,” Wollman said during a brief press conference Monday at Parkside Commons. “And that’s why we’re here today. We want to help solve that problem.”

Officials said the new AAS program — which is available at a reduced rate and allows for the direct transfer of up to 27 technical training credits earned at local technical schools — will help fill job openings in a variety of positions, including computer numerical control machinists and machinist technicians and operators; electronics technicians; occupations in electronics engineering technology; electric arc welding; and mechatronics technology.

“These are the jobs that have been identified by local manufacturers and regional research,” said Wollman. “These are jobs that are going unfilled, despite good pay and advancement opportunities.”

Those seeking to learn more about the new program and everything it’s about are invited to attend a public open house from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Parkside Commons. Another open house for the program is at the same time Thursday at the EUP’s Porreco Center in Erie.

The program is “definitely a great first step for anyone wanting to enter a career in manufacturing,” said PMI Executive Director Chuck Guiste. And on the local level, he added, such training is “what has been missing for a lot of the workers trying to enter the manufacturing sector.”

Kathleen Bishop, executive director of the Meadville-Western Crawford County Chamber of Commerce, said local data shows there are currently about 1,500 open and unfilled positions in the region’s manufacturing sector.

“Why?,” she asked. Because “we need the skills (training available) for the employers to have the employees to come to work.”

If that’s not available locally, she said, the result is “the workforce leaves here. (And) the employer looks elsewhere to fill the needs for those jobs.”

It’s that reason, Bishop said, that makes it “such a welcome, refreshing program. This is so needed in our community.”

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