BLOG: Governor Wolf’s Budget Supports Pennsylvania’s Workforce

By: Dennis Davin, Secretary of the Department of Community and Economic Development, and Kathy Manderino, Secretary of the Department of Labor & Industry

February 18, 2016

With a labor force of more than 6.4 million, Pennsylvania requires a budget that supports and strengthens our statewide workforce. We must continue to develop meaningful training programs and opportunities so businesses are assured qualified candidates to fill vacancies and have the ability to retrain their current employees when needed.

There are two paths we can take in considering Pennsylvania’s economic future. We can work with the private sector to make targeted investments in job creation or we can continue down a path of financial devastation caused by budget gimmickry that will result in a $2.3 billion deficit that will stifle economic growth in Pennsylvania. Governor Wolf has worked with businesses across Pennsylvania to help them grow and thrive, but inaction by the legislature has left us with a ballooning deficit. If we build on a bipartisan budget agreement and work to eliminate the deficit, we can take on the status quo and work with businesses to drive economic growth in Pennsylvania. If we fail to honestly address our deficit, we will see skyrocketing property taxes and an economic environment diminished by a lack of investment.

Governor Wolf’s 2016-17 budget ensures that Pennsylvania businesses have the appropriate training resources. One way is by providing an increase to the Pennsylvania First program. Pennsylvania First supports WEDnetPA, which provides qualified employers with training dollars for new and existing employees through a unique partnership with community colleges, state system universities, and other institutions of higher education.

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The WEDnetPA program was created to ensure that companies across the commonwealth can remain competitive locally, nationally, and internationally by updating and improving the skills of their employees to meet specific business needs.

Also, as a result of rapidly advancing technology, manufacturing jobs have changed dramatically in recent years. Manufacturers today expect employees to increase productivity and the demand for well-trained, knowledgeable workers continues to rise. To respond to all of the changes in the demand for skilled manufacturing workers, the supply factors for such talent need to expand as well.

Governor Wolf’s 2016-17 budget includes funding for the ‘IRC Manufacturing Initiative’ to leverage the research and innovation capacities of Pennsylvania’s major engineering research universities to support growth of manufacturing in the state and forge important relationships between major organizations dedicated to strengthening Pennsylvania’s manufacturing industry.

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This unprecedented collaboration between Pennsylvania’s top research universities and the Industrial Resource Center Network will help ensure that small- and medium-size manufacturers in every corner of the commonwealth will have full access to the research and innovation resources of our leading universities. It is anticipated that the state investment will be leveraged by a 3:1 ratio for federal and private investment and significantly increases Pennsylvania’s opportunities for job creation and business development through transformative developments in manufacturing.

The governor’s budget also dedicates $10 million for Industry Partnerships (IPs), an established L&I workforce program that enables clusters of businesses in complementary industries to work together and identify common needs for local workforce skill sets and to develop training programs to meet those needs. IPs provide an avenue for industries and the state to team up and provide specialized training and a path for thousands of Pennsylvanians to great-paying, family-sustaining jobs.

Finally, the governor’s 2016-17 proposed budget includes an additional $2 million for L&I’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR), which provides vocational rehabilitation services to help persons with disabilities prepare for, obtain, or maintain employment. This funding allows the state to maximize federal funding and greatly expand OVR’s employment and independent living services to benefit an even greater number of Pennsylvanians with disabilities.

Together, our training programs and higher education institutions ensure manufacturers can find and employ talented, skilled Pennsylvanians who can offer complex problem solving and innovative thinking. Let’s respond to the needs of our employers and make a difference in our economy by supporting Governor Wolf’s 2016-17 budget.

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