Erie County inches closer to getting community college or alternative…

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As Erie County officials wait to hear back on their community college proposal, a state senator plans to pitch an alternative.  

While Erie County is home to four universities, community leaders say there’s one key component missing.  And, to fill that void, a local lawmaker says we may need to change our approach. 

Experts say one of the most significant issues facing Erie County is a skills gap. Workers needing different opportunities to learn and employers needing qualified candidates.

The Erie County Director of Administration, Gary Lee, says a feasibility study points to a community college as a solution. “It really has displayed and made the case from an administration standpoint that, that infrastructure is needed not only for today but for the future.” 

But, nearly 18 months have passed without an answer since the county submitted a proposal to the Pennslyvania Board of Education. Now, State Senator Dan Laughlin is preparing to pitch a compromise to the President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati utilizing resources from the county and from the Northern Pennsylvania Regional College based in Warren. 

Senator Dan Laughlin says, “If I can convince the parties to come together, and perhaps if Erie County can provide the space, and NPRC can teach from Erie County, and in a more traditional setting, that’s a win for everybody.”

Laughlin says that concept appeals to the needs of the community and the state senate, but Lee says this idea is not necessarily new to county government.  

Gary Lee, Erie County Director of Administration, says, “We need a standalone community college and we feel very strongly about that. From Senator Laughlin’s perspective, we have not seen a proposal yet but we’re not averse to working with the Northern Pennsylvania Regional College.”

At this point, the county is still optimistic about the original proposal to the state.

Laughlin plans to make his pitch to Scarnati in January.

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