Governor Wolf’s Middle Class Task Force Kicks Off First Regional Roundtable

Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf’s Middle Class Task Force, a panel of business, labor, education and workforce development experts, today held the first of six regional roundtables to hear from Pennsylvanians about how to improve the lives of hard-working, middle class families.

“This task force is bringing together a special combination of representatives for employers, workers, educators and students to listen to people across the commonwealth about how we can support and grow Pennsylvania’s middle class,” said Governor Wolf. “Our state is making progress by increasing education funding and expanding economic incentives and workforce training, but middle class families know we must do more.

“It is important this task force hears from people on all sides so we can develop education, training and economic development opportunities to ensure middle class families can live and complete in the 21st century economy.”

The governor appointed four chairmen to lead the task force: Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry President and CEO Gene Barr, Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale, Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Assistant Vice Chancellor Dr. Sue Mukherjee, and Pennsylvania Workforce Development Association Chairperson Susie Snelick. Additional leaders from these constituencies will be invited to join these discussions as well.

“With our prime location, diverse industry base and strong work ethic, Pennsylvania is uniquely poised for a host of economic opportunities,” said Gene Barr, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry. “But despite these benefits, there are people without jobs, and there are good paying jobs without people to fill them. I’m excited to listen and meet with residents from across the commonwealth to discuss the challenges currently facing our state – including a growing jobs skills gap –  and to work with my fellow task force members towards solutions that will help the middle class and Pennsylvania’s economy to thrive.”

“This is an exciting opportunity for worker advocates, businesses, legislators and community organizations to come together to hear the concerns of working people,” said Rick Bloomingdale, president of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO. “It is imperative for the future of Pennsylvania that we look ahead with the fullest understanding of the current realities working families face across our commonwealth. At a time when economic inequality is at the forefront of so many conversations, the Governor’s Middle-Class Task Force is a step toward understanding and growing opportunities for working people in the 21st century.”Over the next few weeks the task force will hold five additional regional discussions to listen to businesses leaders, workers, educators, students and others for suggestions on ways the commonwealth can better support working families to get and keep jobs, as well as to invest in education and training to make businesses in Pennsylvania more competitive.

“By forming the task force, Governor Wolf is again helping us focus, individually and collectively, on a problem that matters,” said Dr. Sue Mukherjee, assistant vice chancellor with the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. “At the State System, we believe that education is at the core of socio-economic mobility. We also know that our state continues to struggle with a mismatch among jobs, workers, and students. We need to learn more.

“Governor Wolf’s Middle Class Taskforce will provide our education community the opportunity to learn directly from the families and regional businesses we serve so we can better catalyze pathways to economic security for all.”

As the task force works to find common ground, Pennsylvania’s middle class and economy are changing, creating challenges for workers and businesses. Near full employment has caused a tight labor market and a shortage of workers in some industries along with the need to train workers to close the skills gap for the available in-demand jobs.

“Governor Wolf’s Middle Class Task Force is an ideal forum for workers and employers statewide to collaborate on policy recommendations that support the governor’s ‘Jobs that Pay’ priority,” said Susie Snelick, chairperson of the Pennsylvania Workforce Development Association. “I look forward to hearing from middle class workers and employers across the commonwealth about ways we can all help everyone succeed and sharing those suggestions with the governor.”

Representing the Wolf administration on the task force are Department of Education Secretary Pedro Rivera, Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary Dennis Davin, Acting Department of Labor and Industry Secretary Jerry Oleksiak.

The task force will present recommendations to the governor later this year.