Amy Scott | MARKETPLACE

In a lab at Reading Area Community College, 18-year-old Benjamin Eckenrode stands in front of a blue wall rigged with pistons, pumps and gauges. It’s a pneumatic troubleshooting system, designed to teach students how to identify and solve problems with manufacturing equipment.

“This piston is supposed to go down and actually pick up a ball, but it is not,” he said.

Eckenrode’s assignment is to figure out why the piston isn’t moving. The high school senior is taking this college class as part of a program to prepare more young people for careers in the technical trades.

It’s still possible to get an entry-level factory job with just a diploma paying maybe $17 an hour, said Bonnie Spayd, executive director of the Schmidt Technology and Training Center at the college. But with a little extra training, her students can make $20 to $30 an hour, plus benefits.

“The good news for you, if you’re not employed and you want to get employed, pretty much the world’s your oyster,” she said. “You’re probably looking at four or five different job offers.”


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