Workforce Spotlight

The Challenge Program, Inc. Raising Student Awareness of Job Training Programs

October 07, 2020

The Challenge Program, Inc. was founded in 2003 by Daniel Perkins.  Our mission is to build sustainable business and education partnerships while motivating students to develop the good habits required to succeed in school and in their future careers. Students in grades 10, 11 and 12 are challenged in TCP’s five incentivized categories that are linked to successful career habits – Attendance, STEM, Community Service, Academic Improvement and Academic Excellence. 


The program meets workforce development and student career readiness needs by connecting business and education.  TCP is an interactive program partnering with businesses that sponsor the program in more than 120 Pennsylvania schools to implement a unique brand of workforce education.  Together, we focus on raising awareness with students about local and regional companies that exist within their communities and the pathways they need to explore to obtain the job they desire. 


Telling students is one thing; showing them makes it real.  COVID-19 created an environment where it is not prudent to physically bring people together.  During the spring of 2020, TCP worked to make sure students and businesses still connected.   TCP presented a Virtual Career Fair series highlighting business partners from the healthcare, manufacturing, finance, construction and general business industries, providing information and links for students to pursue career opportunities in their communities.


"When the pandemic hit, we immediately transitioned to a virtual platform for our program, including all workforce development activities,” says Barb Grandinetti, president of The Challenge Program, Inc. “We were determined not to have students miss out on these opportunities.”  


As the 2020-21 school term takes root, TCP is looking forward to continuing virtual workforce activities.  Business partner representatives and TCP staff are planning virtual facility tours, video recorded sessions with the business representatives and delivering virtual classroom presentations in select subject matter. 


Our newest Major Corporate Partner is InFirst Bank. In line with their long-standing and ongoing commitment to community investment and outreach, InFirst Bank is partnering with The Challenge Program, Inc. in 11 schools in four PA counties (Cambria, Indiana, Westmoreland and Jefferson counties).  With a focus on financial literacy and workforce development, they will get involved this year with bringing financial literacy activities into the schools, while educating students on career opportunities within the bank.  This summer, InFirst Bank will offer paid summer learning experiences to students who qualify as finalists in any of the five award categories to further their career development.


“Providing financial literacy in our communities is a top priority for InFirst Bank,” says Jessica Bowman of AVP Marketing for InFirst Bank.  “We’re honored to be partnering up with TPC in helping local students create healthy financial habits.  We want to ensure that they have the knowledge and skillset to make better, informed personal financial decisions – both now and in the future.”


A continuing TCP success story is business partner G.A.P. Federal Credit Union, which has partnered with a Cambria County school since 2011.  GAP coordinated to teach a financial literacy program in the school’s business curriculum.  Students who take the class have an opportunity to work at the student-run GAP kiosk.  After graduation, students who trained with GAP in the kiosk have an opportunity to work at GAP, based on their performance and resume submission.  To date, eight graduates have been hired by GAP for full/part-time and seasonal employment.


Riggs Industries in Somerset County, Corle Building Systems and Clark Contractors in Bedford County, to name just a few manufacturers, partner with TCP in local schools assuring students are aware of and informed about good careers with family sustainable wages in their communities

TCP and business partners are exploring ways to implement virtual internships, project-based learning, student interviews, Q&A’s between students and business partners, a new spring career fair series and special award presentations for students.  Despite the 2020-2021 circumstances, workforce connections must continue, businesses will need to hire, students need to be prepared, and seniors will graduate.


Grandinetti is convinced that The Challenge Program has the right formula for workforce development. “Having our people working with community businesses and schools will translate into jobs for young talent, keeping them in Pennsylvania,” she says.


For schools or businesses interested in participating, please contact Sara Deyarmin Jones, director of Program Development at