A Pennsylvania workforce study projects more than 590,000 new and replacement jobs will become available in Pennsylvania through 2026, and more than 9 percent of those will require skills, background or education in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Dan Kuba, the director for workforce development for the state Department of Labor and Industry focused on the importance of STEM programs in schools during a visit this week to the Columbia-Montour Area Vocational Technical School (CMAVTS) in Bloomsburg.

The school, which serves students in the Danville Area and Southern Columbia school districts, as well as five other school districts in Columbia County, offers 17 training programs including building trades; carpentry; electrical; heating, ventilation and air conditioning; computer technology; drafting and design; mechatronics, printing; automotive mechanics; auto repair and refinishing; machining, welding, cosmetology; culinary arts; health professions and sciences and agricultural plant systems and technology.

The SUN Area Technical Institute in New Berlin and the Northumberland County Career and Technical Center in Coal Township offer many of the same or similar programs to high school students across the region, and they all continue to play an important role in setting up students for career success.

“By investing in career and technical education programs, we’re providing students with the hands-on experience and skills they need to succeed in their future careers, and local employers can connect with a job-ready workforce that will help them grow,” Kuba said during his visit to CMAVTS on Tuesday.

He noted that Gov. Tom Wolf has included funding in his state budget for the next fiscal year to support the PAsmart program, an effort started two years ago to expand skills training an apprenticeships for Pennsylvania residents of all ages and backgrounds.

According to the PA Workforce Needs Assessment 2016-2026 report, graduates from STEM educational programs will earn an average annual wage of $37,000 or more at the entry-level and an average of $65,000 or more annually over the course of their careers.

The PAsmart program is available now to help people prepare and locate new careers. The website — pasmart.gov — offers sections on finding training and apprenticeships, educational opportunities and new career paths. Under a section titled “STEM jobs in PA,” there are listings of various career positions, the number of expected hires each year and the average salaries.

Many opportunities await, and we applaud those who help others achieve their career goals by coordinating and presenting career training, educational and job-search programs as well as employers who support new workers with training and apprenticeships.

NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher, top newsroom executives and community members of the editorial board. Today’s was written by Digital Editor Dave Hilliard.

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