Education

Laurel Technical Institute Opens New Hermitage Site

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HERMITAGE, Pa. – When his program at the Laurel Technical Institute started three years ago, an industrial maintenance instructor, Bob Bechtel, had just three students in his class.

Today, that number has grown to 14, an encouraging sign as demand for industrial maintenance workers continues to grow in the region.

“We’ve got a lot of good people here,” Bechtel said of his students, as he walks across the large shop floor at Laurel Technical’s new building, 2370 Broadway Ave. “They’ll end up with an associates degree when they leave.”

Officeholders, staff, students and administrators were on hand at a ribbon cutting Thursday afternoon to celebrate the grand opening the new building, which nearly quadruples the shop space of its previous site on Dock Street in Sharon.

“We’ve grown from 23 welding booths to 32,” said Doug Decker, executive vice president. “We’ve expanded the shop floor from 6,000 square feet to about 23,000 square feet.”

Laurel Technical Institute bought the building last year when its lease at Dock Street expired. Decker said the Hermitage building suited the needs of the school perfectly, allowing for more classroom and shop floor space. The school officially moved in April.

“We’re not fully occupied in the space,” he said, but we have room to grow.”

The new building houses the school’s cosmetology and trade programs, while another building in downtown Sharon houses courses in allied health, business, and computer programs. “It worked out well,” Decker said.

Welding, electrical tech and industrial maintenance tech courses are supported by both lecture and hands-on floor training, Decker said. The welding lecture lab, for example, is equipped with a virtual welder that uses computer technology to simulate a welding bay.

“It’s great for first-semester students and we use it for recruitment,” Decker said. “It gives the younger students a taste of what this is going to be like.”

Tori Green, a first-semester student in Laurel’s cosmetology program, said she has always loved makeup and accessories and the cosmetology program provided the best options to advance her career.

“I’ve always loved it and this was the chance to pursue my career,” she said. “I had to choose between three different schools, and Laurel Technical Institute really made me feel at home. It was the best choice for me.”

Decker’s mother, Nancy, and late father, Chris, established the school in 1985 in Uniontown. “It’s been a family business for a long time,” Nancy Decker, CEO and president, told supporters at the ceremony.

In 2007, the school expanded to Sharon, and in 2013, added its Dock Street building. In 2016, the school purchased the building on Broadway and moved from Dock Street last April.

About 70 attend classes at the new location on Broadway while another 105 are enrolled at the Sharon campus.

“We’re dedicated, we’re committed, and we have firm roots here in Sharon for the past 10 years,” Doug Decker said.

Pictured at top: Doug Decker, executive director of the school, and Nancy Decker, CEO.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.