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Business leaders tour career center

January 16, 2009|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania lost thousands of manufacturing jobs in 2008, but that sector of the economy remained strong in Franklin County and businesses continue seeking skilled workers.

On Thursday, business leaders, educators and elected officials dined on braised short ribs with leek and wild mushroom jus and smoky bacon-wrapped monkfish prepared by Franklin County Career and Technology Center students while center director James Duffey brought them up to date on its future.

That includes a $15 million renovation and expansion of the 40-year-old center, and the Chambersburg Area School District's plans to build an academic wing for its students, Duffey told representatives from Johnson Controls, Jerr-Dan, Volvo and other manufacturers.

The Cumberland Valley Manufacturing Forum, formed in 2008 by Volvo and the Franklin County Area Development Corp. to help grow the industrial base, hosted the dinner and tour. Guests learned about the center's partnerships with Penn State University and Harrisburg (Pa.) Area Community College (HACC) to train adults and secondary students for the work force needs of the future.

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"We always need welders, machinists, plasma operators and, if we can get one, a water jet operator," said Sandra Tillman-Daniels, vice president of ACS Precision LLC in Mercersburg, Pa. She and her husband, Charles, bought the fabricating company in May and have more than tripled the number of workers there.

ACS needs more skilled workers for future expansion, she said.

"We need people who have math skills, a good work ethic, computer skills and want to learn the machining trade," said Bill Sanders, president of Mitchell Machine in Greencastle, Pa. His company is a division of Duvinage LLC, which builds fire escapes and circular staircases in Hagerstown.

Theresa Shank of Penn State is the director of continuing education at the center. For the past four years, the center has been training adults in heating and air conditioning, electrical, welding, computer skills and other areas, she said.

Mechantronics, a series of courses on industrial maintenance, will be offered at the center beginning next month, said Shannon Harvey, assistant dean for academic affairs at HACC's campus in Gettysburg, Pa. A $200,000 grant will be used to equip the program, she said.

High school students can earn college credits at the center, while adults can study for associate degrees and credits that can go toward a bachelor's degree in some cases, center officials said.

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