The University at Pittsburgh at Titusville hosted a meeting of a community steering committee that is working with the University to strategize the future of the Titusville campus. The group met with key community leaders to discuss specific aspects of the plans.
Lawrence Feick, a vice provost at the University of Pittsburgh, assured those attending the meeting that Pitt is working to build a model that will make the Titusville campus successful. That model will include getting educational partners who can help meet the education and training needs of residents in the Titusville region.
Kyle O’Neill of ChoiceWoods asked how many partners it would take to keep Pitt Titusville in the community. Feick responded that the two training facilities who were in attendance, Joanna Papada from Manchester Bidwell of Pittsburgh and George Harvey and Claire Guth from Pitt’s Manufacturing Assistance Center, along with a potential community college partnership are being considered. He went on to say that, “The University is not looking for a way out. We are working to build a model that will make the Titusville campus successful. “
Feick began the meeting with a review of the options presented to the University of Pittsburgh’s Board of Trustees to review in June. The two options that the board left on the table were either closing the campus or continuing operation of the Titusville campus along with partners that meet the training needs of this area.
Papada gave an overview of the success Bidwell has experienced for over fifty years. Bidwell provides adult career training programs through strong partnerships with leading Pittsburgh corporations and agencies. Currently, they have nine locations across the globe, with the most recent additions in Sharon and Brockway, PA.
“I want you to suspend disbelief,” said Papada, “We need to look like the solution, not the problem.” Papada went on to explain about the innovative learning that the Bidwell Training Centers provides. Every facility is different and tailored to the community it serves. “It is not one size fits all.”
Students accepted into classes at Bidwell are offered a one-time scholarship. There is no cost to students to attend Bidwell, however the catch is, “Finish the program within a year and then pay it forward by becoming the best employee you can be,” says Papada. “There is no debt burden to students.” Bidwell classes are generally limited to 15-30 students per program and state funding, grants, and private donors cover tuition.
The goal of this type of programming is to eliminate poverty and keep a skilled workforce in Pennsylvania. “We remove all barriers and change communities,” said Papada. “Manchester Bidwell and Pitt Titusville have two missions with one goal – meeting the educational and training needs of NW PA. “
Karen Jez, Superintendent of the TASD commented, “It is exciting to be able to create something that might become replicable in education. We have an opportunity to think outside the box and to customize education for students that don’t fit the traditional mold and, in the process, give back to our community,”
Next up was Claire Guth and George Howard from the University of Pittsburgh’s Manufacturing Assistance Center (MAC).
The MAC has been operating in Pittsburgh since 1994 and prepares students for jobs in manufacturing. According to Guth, “The MAC has a very high job placement rate because of the customized regional training and also due to the branding and reputation of Pitt.”
Students attending the MAC are taught soft skills as well as project-based learning. Students are required to attend full-time, generally from 8 am until 4 pm for 8, 14, or 20 weeks, depending on the program. Upon successful completion of the program, the student leaves with certification in their field.
According to George Harvey, “We have submitted a proposal to create a ‘mini Mac’ in Titusville that would provide regional job-training skills and a job service center that teaches job readiness skills, such as resume building.”
The MAC currently runs three cohorts per program throughout the year to meet demand. “We can place our students, we just can’t get them in fast enough,” said Harvey.
James Broadhurst, Chairman of the Board of Eat ‘n Park attended the meeting and said, “We have a great opportunity here and I, for one, am working hard to make sure Pitt doesn’t consider closure, especially with the partnerships that are being explored.”
The meeting was a follow-up to previous visits to Titusville by staff from Manchester Bidwell and the MAC. In addition, members of the steering committee have visited Manchester Bidwell’s sites in Brockway and their home base in Pittsburgh. On the Pittsburgh trip the committee also visited the MAC.
Feick ended the meeting stating, “We will continue to reach out to the community to discuss regional needs so that we can fine-tune the types of programs that we might offer on the campus. We are committed to developing a model that will work for the Titusville region.”