Career Center enrollment at decade peak

By Leandro Aristeguieta

Staff Writer

CLARION

Going into the new school year, the Clarion County Career Center reports its highest enrollment in more than ten years.

"We have about 390 students placed into programs this year," said Career Center Director Traci Wildeson. "This counts both morning and afternoon sessions."

This year's enrollment represents a 26 student increase from last year and is the most students the Career Center has seen since at least the 2009-2010 school year. Wildeson said she had not checked the records any further back.

Asked why enrollment has reach its highest point in 11 years, Wildeson said she had not asked the students directly why they applied, but had some thoughts as to their reasoning.

"People are understanding the worth of these types of careers," she said.

Wildeson described the occupations the Career Center prepares students for as "high wage, high need" jobs.

"We offer nine programs that prepare our students for in demand, high wage occupations," said Wildeson.

Another reason for the surge in enrollment might be the Covid-19 pandemic. Wildeson said all the occupations the Career Center trains for were deemed essential by the government.

Wildeson also said they will have to look into their pandemic-altered recruitment practices to see if they had any impact on enrollment.

"We always had 6 and 9 grade students tour, which they didn't this year," said Wildeson.

In previous year, the Career Center's main method of recruitment was the tours. However, the pandemic forced them to move online.

Wildeson said they created a video showing off the Career Center and hosted a virtual open house through Zoom where prospective students could chat with teachers in the programs they were most interested.

"We also did recruitment later in the year, keeping us fresher in students' minds," said Wildeson.

All nine of the Career Center's programs currently have waitlists for entry.

Wildeson explained students put down a first and second choice of programs as part of their application to the career center.

If their first choice program is not available, students are given the option to enroll in their second choice program.

If space opens in the first choice program, students can switch their programs.

"We'll go to those students and they'll get the first choice, the right of first refusal," said Wildeoson.

Seven schools send students to the Career Center: CL, Clarion, Keystone, Redbank, AC Valley, North Clarion and Union.

Four schools come for the morning sessions while three schools come for the afternoon sessions.

The Career Center's teaching capacity is 432 students, but because the schedule is staggered, they might not have as many students for some programs in the afternoon as they do in the morning, leading to a lower enrollment than the maximum.