Glenn “GT” Thompson is the incumbent Republican U.S. House of Representatives member for the Tri-County Area. He has taken heat, including some in this space, for being go-along to get-along party line hack and lackluster Trump supporter.

But on one issue, post-secondary education, Thompson has the House on the right track.

Thompson, who lives in Howard just outside State College, is acutely aware of statistics reviewed recently in Sarah Rafacz’ May 26 Centre Daily Times news story:

• In 2017, 74 percent of State College Area High School’s 542 graduates went on to a four-year college.

• Just 4 percent attended trade and technical schools.

Yet there is a shortage of skilled non-college workers, people who can fix big rooftop air conditioning units that keep our workplaces habitable in summer heat or who can rewire an older home being rehabilitated without delaying the entire project for a month because of backlogged schedules because of labor shortages.

State College is a macrocosm of DuBois, with its sprawling Penn State University Park Campus overshadowing PSU’s DuBois site.

Triangle Tech in Falls Creek and Penn State’s own Penn College, formerly Williamsport Community College, are churning out people who can fix those HVAC units or rewire those houses – but not enough.

At Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology in Bellefonte, vice president Todd Taylor told Rafacz that for every one of CPI’s graduates, there are 10 companies calling in or posting for openings.

The Associated General Contractors of America reports that 70 percent of the nation’s construction companies are struggling to fill open positions with qualified employees.

These are feed-a-family jobs. With three years of experience, someone working in the natural gas compression field could be making more than $100,000 a year.

Back to Rep. Thompson. He co-authored the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, which unanimously passed the U.S. House in June and is waiting to be taken up in the U.S. Senate.

He said the bill will “provide better access to more effective skills-based education” and give authority back to state and local leaders who have a thorough understanding of the regional workforce needs.

So ... kudos to Thompson.

And here is a memo to Pennsylvania’s two U.S. senators, Republican Pat Toomey and up-for-reelection Democrat Bob Casey. Jobs and education are bipartisan issues.

Pennsylvania needs a bipartisan Senate approval vote of the Strengthening Career bill. It would be a welcome and all too rare example of governance trumping partisan politics.

— Denny Bonavita

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