State Sen. John Yudichak Tuesday said despite all the good economic news in northeastern Pennsylvania, the COVID-19 pandemic, rising inflation, global instability, and workforce development failures threaten our ability to sustain NEPA’s number one position in economic growth within the Commonwealth.
“Today’s joint hearing on Pennsylvania’s workforce development programs is a timely discussion on all the factors that will help us build on our region’s economic success story and contribute to a stronger Pennsylvania economy,” said Yudichak, I-Swoyersville, at a joint Senate hearing held at the Luzerne County Community College’s Educational Conference Center.
The Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee — chaired by Sen. Yudichak — the Senate Labor and Industry Committee — chaired by Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-Beaver/Greene/Washington — held the joint hearing on Tuesday on the subject of workforce development in northeastern Pennsylvania.
The Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee and the Senate Labor and Industry Committee assembled an impressive group of panelists ranging from both private and public sector experts to discuss the importance of investing in workforce development, including area labor leaders and representatives from the Greater Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce, Greater Pittston Area Chamber of Commerce, Greater Hazleton Area Chamber of Commerce, Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce and the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.
Also attending were Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township, and Sen. Dave Argall, R-29. The Committees heard from Dan Kuba, Acting Deputy Secretary for Workforce Development; Susan Spry, VP of Workforce Development LCCC; John Nadolny, Training Director, IBEW Local 163; Lindsay Griffin, President/CEO Greater Wyoming Valley Chamber; Michelle Mikitish, Executive VP Greater Pittston Area Chamber; Gina Suydam, President Wyoming County Chamber; Jocelyn Sterenchock Director of Economic Development, CANDO/Greater Hazleton; and Mary Malone, President Greater Hazleton Chamber.
“With employers in just about every sector coping with a lack of available or suitably skilled workers, we need to redouble our efforts to make sure that emerging workers and displaced workers have the education, training, and work ethic needed to fill the jobs of today and tomorrow,” Sen. Baker said.
The assembled panel said investment and attention to workforce development has made a significant impact in the economy in northeastern Pennsylvania and has been a key contributor to the region’s recent economic success.
According to the 2020-21 Governor’s Action Team Report, northeastern Pennsylvania topped every other region in the Commonwealth by creating more than 2,300 new jobs last year, 1,300 of those jobs in the manufacturing industry, and secured more than $1.2 billion in private economic development.
“As employers struggle to find the talent they need to run and grow their businesses, it is imperative that we continue to develop innovative strategies to prepare individuals for the workforce and share the successes so they can be replicated across the state,” said Sen. Bartolotta. “I greatly appreciate the work of the organizations that testified today about the creative ways they are training our future workers.”
The panel highlighted education, training, and union apprenticeship programs that can prepare a highly skilled workforce for 21st century jobs. The panel also discussed how affordable childcare, access to transportation, and the availability of quality drug and alcohol programs can sustain a reliable workforce.
“With employers in just about every sector coping with a lack of available or suitably skilled workers, we need to redouble our efforts to make sure that emerging workers and displaced workers have the education, training, and work ethic needed to fill the jobs of today and tomorrow,” said State Senator Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne/Pike/Susquehanna/Wayne/Wyoming).
“IBEW Local 163 JATC was happy to provide input to the panel of legislators for the workforce development in NEPA hearing,” said John Nadolny, Training Director, Wilkes-Barre Electrical JATC. “We are proud to represent labor and our registered apprenticeship program. We were grateful for the opportunity to provide feedback on this important topic.”