In the late 1960s and early 1970s, many Pennsylvania public school districts were joining forces to establish countywide trade schools called area vocational-technical schools. The purpose was to pool the resources of the participating districts and offer vocational-technical training to prepare high school students for jobs right after high school such as carpenters, auto mechanics, healthcare workers, and draftsmen. This type of training is typically more expensive than academic classes due to the cost of labs and equipment. By working as a team, districts could offer better opportunities. Adams County school districts made a similar effort, but the project was derailed before construction began.
Over the years there have been other attempts to establish an Adams county-wide vocational-technical school with each attempt meeting an insurmountable obstacle. Also since then, district superintendents, understanding the importance of what is now called career and technical education, beefed up their Tech-Ed and Agriculture courses, sent their students to technical schools in neighboring counties, and established the Adams County Tech Prep consortium operated by the Gettysburg Area School District.
A project several years in the making came to fruition during the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years. In the fall of 2019 the school boards of Bermudian Springs, Conewago Valley, Fairfield Area, Gettysburg Area, and Littlestown Area School Districts voted to “establish and participate in an area career and technical center” (the modern term for an area vocational-technical school). Articles of Agreement were established to provide the governing framework and the Pennsylvania State Board of Education approved the actions of the districts in January 2020. Adams County Technical Institute (ACTI) was born! Each school district appoints one voting member to the Joint Operating Committee – the governing body of ACTI – that meets once each month to make decisions regarding the operation of ACTI. ACTI’s programs are jointly owned and operated by the participating districts and were formed from the Adams County Tech Prep (ACTP) programs that have been evolving since the mid-1990s. The ACTI programs are Allied Health, Building Trades, Computer Networking, Criminal Justice, Culinary Arts, Diesel Mechanics, and Early Learning.
The first half of 2020 saw ACTI staff lay the foundation to operate as its own school while continuing to educate ACTP students at the beginning of the pandemic. During the summer, ACTI staff coordinated with the participating districts to formulate a reopening plan that aimed to return to full in-person instruction for all students, every day, while live-streaming our daily lessons for students who may be quarantined or sick. With a few minor adjustments, that plan has been largely successful.
ACTI operation officially began on July 1, 2020 and during the second half of 2020, ACTI staff has been working diligently to build a foundation for growth – firmly establishing our business, legal, and operational functions to achieve our vision to “continuously improve and expand career and technical education opportunities to meet the needs of the local workforce and the career goals of our students.”
Community involvement is critical to our vision in two ways.
First, local business and industry partnerships help shape the future of our school. Each of our seven programs maintains an occupational advisory committee that meets twice each year to advise the instructor on facilities, equipment and supplies, curriculum, industry-recognized credentials, and needs of the local workforce. The flip side of the partnership is that ACTI can provide entry-level ready employees to meet local workforce needs. ACTI administration also maintains an advisory committee to help shape the overall direction and growth of the school. To become involved, contact Shawn Eckenrode at email@example.com or 717-334-6254, option 8, extension 4216.
Second, help us spread the word about the great opportunities in career and technical education! ACTI teachers and staff and participating district guidance counselors never miss a chance to talk about the great programs we offer and how they can benefit our students. Learn more about us on our website (www.acti-pa.org) and become an advocate for career and technical education in Adams County!
In most career fields, seven out of ten jobs do not require an advanced or four-year degree. These high-skilled, in-demand, well-paying jobs can be had with a two-year degree, technical training, or an industry certification. All of the programs at ACTI offer at least two hours each day of training, postsecondary credits, and industry-recognized credentials. Admission is competitive and seats not used by participating district students may be offered to private school and home-educated students.
We are excited about the future and offering Adams County students the wide variety of career and technical education opportunities that their peers in neighboring counties have enjoyed for 50 years!
Check out what ACTI has to offer (www.acti-pa.org) and “Choose Your Path” to a great career!
Shawn Eckenrode is the director of the Adams County Technical Institute.