Back to School – Back to Work

Back to School-Back to Work

Older and wiser


THURSDAY, DEC. 17, 2009


For the first time in his life, at age 49, Harry Druckemiller made the honor roll.

“I put forth the effort I didn’t do when I was in (high) school. … And now I know I had to do it,” said Druckemiller, of Burnham, Mifflin County. “It made a big difference.”

This month, Druckemiller graduated from the 12-month practical nursing program at Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology.

Druckemiller’s not the only adult to do better in school the second time around, said Jane Irwin, the coordinator of the practical nursing program at CPI.

“I think they are surprised how well they do,” said Irwin. “Adult students don’t realize how much their experience helps them learn. They have a better understanding of some of the concepts involved in nursing than your typical person with no life experience.”

Read more: Older and Wiser



Leaving no stone unturned: Woman seeks better life operating heavy equipment.


WEDNESDAY, DEC. 16, 2009

PLEASANT GAP — Stacy Harclerode, 41, wore a red safety helmet, with “SMILE” written in yellow. But she wasn’t smiling.

Her face was locked in concentration as she maneuvered the 19-ton backhoe to scoop out a trench exactly 15 inches wide and 21/2 feet deep. At stake, in her eyes, was more than just a grade.

“You screw up, you could kill somebody,” she’d said earlier.

Harclerode enrolled in the heavy equipment operations program at Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology in August and will finish in February. She travels 64 miles each way from her home in Three Springs, Huntingdon County, to attend classes.

Read more: Leaving no stone unturned.


A wake-up call to nursing


TUESDAY, DEC. 15, 2009


Kara Ellenberger fell into the scheduler job.

She’d been bartending, and one of her customers told her their Bonney Forge production plant needed someone for a four-month position. The job lasted four years.

Then, in September 2008, she and more than 250 of her co-workers were laid off. For her, the pink slip was a wake-up call.

“It was a relief,” said Ellenberger, now 27. “It was, ‘Oh, my gosh. Finally.’ Because I felt comfortable there to a point.”

She didn’t have a question about what to do next.

“The day I got laid off, I knew, ‘OK, I’m going to school, finally.’ ”

Now, she drives 591/2 miles each day from Hesston, Huntingdon County — where the unemployment rate was 11.2 percent in October — training to become a licensed practical nurse. It’s a field, she said, she always wanted to pursue.

Read more: A wake-up call to nursing.


Lessons learned at any age: Younger, older students teach each other


DEC. 14, 2009


PLEASANT GAP — Before this year, the last time Jim Wehler was in a classroom Richard Nixon was president, the Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar” was one of the most popular songs in the country, and work in a powder metal plant wasn’t hard to find.

“It was easy back then. You could leave one, go to another, get a job in two days,” said Wehler, who graduated from high school in 1971. “That’s the way it used to be.”

For 34 years, he worked in a powder metal plant. In the grinding division, he’d stamp out parts, then bake them so they’d be hard. He made transmission parts, small appliances and, once, bottle openers.

“The little flicker in BIC lighters, we made them at one time,” Wehler said.

He was laid off in May 2007, and began classes at Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology in September. He commutes 84 miles each way from St. Marys in Elk County, where the unemployment rate was 12.7 percent in October.

At 56, Wehler figured he was too old for work involving heavy lifting. So he enrolled in the heating, ventilation and air conditioning program.

There are 19 other adult students in the class, a record high at CPI.

Read more: Lessons learned at any age.-


Back to School-Back to Work

Charting a new course: CPI students look to rebuild in recession


SUNDAY, DEC. 13, 2009


Helene Sheckler spent 30 years working at a local finance business, the last five as an executive assistant. She lost her job in April, after the London-based parent company stopped its consumer lending activities in North America.

“It’s a panic situation. You’re devastated,” said Sheckler, a Bellefonte resident who had been an employee of Beneficial Finance.

Like a growing number of adults who find themselves unemployed amid the worst recession in decades, Sheckler decided return to school.

“I wanted to get into something that was a stable employment field, but nursing is something that I had always been interested in,” said Sheckler, who will graduate in June from the nine-month practical nursing program at Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology in Pleasant Gap. “It’s a very rewarding career. The littlest thing can make such a difference to somebody.”

CPI has seen enrollment more than triple during the past eight years, from 436 students in 2002 to 1,313 this year, in part due to the downturn in the economy that is sending adults back to school to learn new job skills.

Read more: Charting a new course

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