Indiana County Technology Center: Serving Students and the Community

Indiana County Technology Center, known locally as ICTC, is a part-time career and technology center that teaches the technical skills students need to take their next step. ICTC teaches high-demand skills in a variety of subject areas, including their Construction and Building Trades programs, which teach Masonry; Carpentry; Electrical Occupations; and Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration.

The Building Trades program recently received an exciting grant from Indiana County’s Whole-Home Repairs Program to facilitate better hands-on training and more community involvement for ICTC’s students. Energy Efficiency Stories spoke with Mike McDermott, ICTC’s Administrative Director, to learn more.

Community Engagement

ICTC participates in the Armstrong Indiana Career Pathway Partnership, a group that focuses on facilitating student career pathways. McDermott explained: “This pathway partnership is a way to connect the education leaders with the business and industry. It gets us all together in one group to say, how can we better serve each other?”

During one of the Partnership’s meetings, Byron Stauffer, the Executive Director of the Indiana County Development Corporation, gave an overview of the Whole-Home Repairs Program and its grant opportunity intended to support the local construction workforce. McDermott was at the meeting with ICTC’s Principal, Mike Worthington. The two looked at each other and said: that’s exactly what we’re trying to do.

ICTC is always seeking hands-on learning opportunities for its students. Before COVID, ICTC was in partnership with an organization in Westmoreland County to build a modular home and then offer it as low-income housing. After the pandemic, there were fewer opportunities for hands-on instruction. ICTC found partners with Home for a Cause, an organization that revitalizes neighborhoods in Western PA by remodeling homes, as well as local organizations like churches that need repairs. ICTC provides the labor as an educational experience and charges the receiving organization for the cost of materials and transportation.

However, the high cost of bus transportation was a real barrier to serving potential partner organizations. Logistics were also a challenge. ICTC operates on a half-day schedule: students receive academic instruction from their sending high school for half the day and spend either their morning or afternoon at ICTC. Therefore, working on a community project meant transporting two cohorts of students – and their tools – twice a day. McDermott and Worthington saw that if they were able to store their tools and transport their students more easily, they could greatly enhance student opportunities.

The Whole-Home Repairs Grant

The Whole-Home Repairs funding allowed ICTC to purchase two ten-passenger vans. Now, ICTC’s instructors can drive students to worksites, eliminating the high cost and logistical hassle of contracting with bus transportation.

The grant also funded two tool storage trailers and the purchase of tools to outfit the trailers. Many tools don’t fit in the vans, and others could cause damage to the van interiors. Housing the tools in the trailers solves those problems and eliminates the need to load and unload tools every day. Instead, students spend more time learning. McDermott described, “We have a little mobile lab of all the materials.” The trailers can also be locked and left on site.

There was a building at the local airport, known as Trimble House, that had been unused for many years. When considering ICTC’s grant application, Indiana County Development Corporation asked if they would be willing to remodel this house. McDermott recalled that it was a perfect fit. “It gave us all of the elements that we used to do with the modular home, but it was with an existing structure. It’s a total remodel. We use all of our program areas. Our carpentry program, our masonry program to do the brick casing and repairs to the outside of the building. We’re using our electrical program, which just got up and running new this year. We were able to tie that program in to run some of the wire and do electrical work and our HVAC program to do some of the heating and the ventilation for the facility. So it was just a very timely opportunity and a really nice match.”

ICTC students work on the Trimble House, a local community renovation project made possible through a Whole-Home Repairs grant.

The Trimble House doesn’t only provide a great opportunity for student learning; its remodel will also benefit the community. It will house the Penn State Cooperative Extension office and include a community meeting space. And with the new vans, trailers, and tools, ICTC is able to pursue other community projects. The grant has so far also facilitated its work with Home for a Cause and has allowed students to build dugouts for the baseball field of a local boosters club. McDermott sees this grant as a long-term investment in his students. 

“This one project was the springboard. But because of the Whole-Home Repair grant, we’re able to branch out into other aspects of the community and provide hands-on work and experience for our students. We’re dealing with real-world applications here. Our students then get the opportunity that when they are leaving us and going out into the workforce, they have real-world experience. They didn’t just frame a window in a classroom setting. They framed it in a real-world environment.”

Building for Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency is a key component of the skills ICTC teaches its building trades students, and the Whole-Home Repairs grant is elevating that learning. Both Trimble House and the house ICTC is working on for Homes for a Cause are very old, outdated buildings with high need for efficiency upgrades.

At Trimble House, the students did a total demolition of the inside of the building. As they rebuilt, they added insulation to both the attic and the walls. “This gave us an opportunity to give our students firsthand knowledge of not only the install, but the learning process of why you insulate, the importance of insulation, where to place the insulation for maximum effectiveness, and so forth,” McDermott explained. They also replaced all of the inefficient windows, learning about caulking and insulation needed to enhance efficiency. 

Students from all of the program areas were involved. The HVAC students installed both heating and cooling systems, learning how to place air conditioners to maximize comfort and efficiency. The masonry students tucked and pointed the brick casing on the outside of the building, which is important for both appearance and to reduce energy loss through holes and cracks.

ICTC students at Trimble House.

Student Career Pathways

Students who come through ICTC have several pathways to career success. “Our key is, again, just to give them as many choices and as many opportunities as we can,” McDermott explained. 

There is a high demand for technicians in Indiana County. Aside from hands-on training, ICTC prepares students with co-op experiences, so they can learn hands-on with an existing company. ICTC has a strong relationship with the Indiana Home Builders Association, which collaborates with the school as part of the occupational advisory committee. The school also works cooperatively with local unions to help students enter apprenticeship programs and become certified. ICTC is also working with a local community college to establish a pathway to higher education. They’ve seen interest from students in earning business degrees and becoming entrepreneurs, so they’re seeking ways to facilitate that pathway.

“We encourage them to, A, have a general knowledge of all the skills and then B, find their passion, what they really see themselves doing, and what they really have an interest and a niche in, and then pursue that,” McDermott said.

What’s Next?

ICTC is well known in its community for the excellent support and learning it provides to students. McDermott explained that the school engages in a thorough intake process to make sure each student is in a program that is the right fit, so students all want to be there. “That message goes back out to the other students in the school. They get to see, wow, if I participate in that program and if I get involved in this, I actually get to do these things.”

ICTC is always looking for ways to improve their program, providing students with the best hands-on experience and pathways forward. With the Whole-Home Repairs Grant, ICTC is better-positioned to pursue opportunities that further their students’ learning. Their partners know about the new capabilities the grant provides and send opportunities to the school. ICTC evaluates: does the project fit in our curriculum? Does it benefit our students? When it does, new projects enhance the student experience and give back to the community, too.

ICTC students learn and practice flooring skills at a Home for a Cause job site.
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Success story from: Indiana County Technology Center
Added to the EE Stories website on: May 4, 2024

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