Connecting state and local government leaders

Pennsylvania Governor Says Workforce Training ‘Must Break From the Status Quo’

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf delivers his budget address for the 2019-20 fiscal year to a joint session of the Pennsylvania House and Senate in Harrisburg, Pa., on Feb. 5, 2019.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf delivers his budget address for the 2019-20 fiscal year to a joint session of the Pennsylvania House and Senate in Harrisburg, Pa., on Feb. 5, 2019. AP Photo/Matt Rourke

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

A new audit found that there is a lot of room for improvement with the state’s workforce programs.

Pennsylvania leaders announced a workforce training initiative this week as a new audit came out that criticized the state’s existing programs for insufficiently helping workers get the skills needed for open positions.

Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, signed the executive order creating the Keystone Economic Development and Workforce Command Center, a collaboration with the private sector to address the state’s workforce problems. The center will examine how to improve coordination of the state’s programs, run by a number of different agencies, and identify policies that can inhibit people getting jobs, according to a news release. Those kind of policies can include state requirements for professional licenses or insufficient child care. 

“We must be bold, we must be ambitious, and we must break from the status quo,” Wolf said at a news conference on Tuesday.

Along with cabinet heads from Wolf’s administration, the center’s leadership will include representation from both business and labor in the state, such as Gene Barr, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, and Rick Bloomingdale, president of the AFL-CIO.

“We have more jobs available than people to fill them,” said Barr, who noted that only recently have his members begun saying that not being able to find workers is a bigger obstacle than taxes or other common business complaints.

As part of its mission, the center will look at implementing recommendations from a new report by Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, which found that the state’s existing workforce system isn’t sufficiently preparing students and unemployed workers for the jobs that exist. The audit noted that state job growth from July 2014 through June 2018  was just 1.34 percent compared to a national average of 6.43 percent, while unemployment has been higher than the national rate.

The performance audit found that the state doesn’t have sufficient programs to help older workers develop new skills. Based in part on a Chamber of Commerce survey of business leaders, the audit also found that employers complained about potential workers not having necessary “soft skills,” such as working on a team and time management.

The report recommended that the state “rebrand” training that doesn’t involve college so that young people also consider jobs in the skilled trades.

Laura Maggi is Managing Editor at Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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