SCHNECKSVILLE, PA – Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) Acting Secretary Jennifer Berrier today highlighted the important role Gov. Tom Wolf's Back to Work PA initiative will have in preparing the commonwealth's workforce for our new post-pandemic economy. Berrier discussed the governor's plan during a visit to Lehigh Carbon Community College (LCCC) to announce L&I's new "Near Completers" program that will assist Pennsylvanians with partially completed degrees or credentials in gaining the skills or training they need to get good jobs that pay family sustaining wages.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has changed so many things about the world we live in, including the labor market," said Berrier. "Gov. Wolf understands this and knows it's imperative to take the skills and knowledge people have obtained through partially completed degrees and put them to good use in high-demand, better paying jobs. This Near Completers program is a great example of how Back to Work PA will make smart investments in the training and workforce development assistance programs that will help build a brighter future for Pennsylvania workers and their families."
The governor has made strengthening Pennsylvania's workforce a priority. His Back to Work PA plan would tackle numerous barriers to employment identified by the bipartisan Keystone Economic Development and Workforce Command Center, including the lack of workforce development and available training Pennsylvanians need for high-demand, good-paying careers.
Near Completers pilot programs will be created in urban, suburban and rural areas of Pennsylvania. The programs are expected to begin operating this fall and will support job seekers who have been displaced from employment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To qualify for the pilot programs, job seekers must also have been making less than $15 per hour before becoming unemployed.
Each Near Completers program will connect job seekers with prior but incomplete learning experiences and skills to institutes of high education, community agencies and employers to help them rapid gain the credentials they need to qualify to work in a high-priority occupation.
"Lehigh Carbon Community College offers many opportunities for students to train for promising careers that feed directly into available jobs in the Lehigh Valley, with multiple options for funding," said LCCC president Dr. Ann D. Bieber. "We work closely with employers throughout the area to ensure that students who come out of these programs can enter positions ready to work and earn family sustaining wages. From manufacturing to health care to construction and dozens more programs, the college has options that meet the needs of our local economy and offer jobs that pay."
Approximately $7 million in federal funds will be awarded to approved Local Workforce Development Boards (LWDBs) who apply for Near Completers grants. The grant applications will be available before the end of this month.
"Having the right training is one of the top credentials that makes a job seeker valuable and attractive to an employer," said Nancy Dischinat, executive director of Workforce Board Lehigh Valley. "Stackable credentials such as certificates, certifications, credentials and degrees can lead to increased income and promotion for employees. The pathway to employability and career growth is close to home here in the in the Lehigh Valley, as we connect workers with training providers to help them develop the skills they need to grow and thrive in careers."
The Wolf Administration is calling for funding for the $3 billion Back to Work PA investment to come from a commonsense severance tax on natural gas extraction. Pennsylvania remains the only gas-producing state without a severance tax and trails only Texas in natural gas production. The proposed severance tax would align with other major natural gas-producing states and prop the commonwealth up with the successes of these other states have seen, like infrastructure improvements, improved educational systems, and lower taxes.
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