Dunmore, PA – State Sen. John Blake on April 19th hosted members of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee at Penn State Scranton for a wide-ranging discussion on career readiness and workforce development.

The public hearing, titled “Our Students, Our Workforce and the Jobs of Tomorrow,” was led by Senate Policy Committee Chair, Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-Northampton), and featured three panels with expert testimony on career readiness, regional job projections and the skills gap in the workforce.

“We need to do a better job here and in Harrisburg to bridge the gap between our education system and our workforce to ensure that our students are qualified for the jobs that will be available to them,” Blake said. “I appreciate my colleagues’ willingness to come to our area and continue the dialogue we have been having for years on workforce development and job training with our regional leaders in the business and education communities.”

Blake has introduced Senate Bill 714, which would establish a state-level council dedicated to career readiness to help improve transition from K-12 to postsecondary to the workforce, as well as ensure that programs are aligned with current or anticipated business and industry needs.

“Over the past few sessions, Senate Democrats have sponsored numerous bills aimed at internship and apprenticeship credits, growing a skilled workforce and training people for the jobs that are actually out there,” Boscola said. “We must continue to invest in proven initiatives that will educate, train or re-train workers for today’s jobs.”

The senators heard a recurring theme that jobs are available but there needs to be a stronger focus on job training and education in the workforce.

“The skills gap conversations taking place across Pennsylvania are echoed in every other state in America: our current system is not producing the students that exhibit the qualities that employers need,” said Team Pennsylvania President and CEO Ryan Unger. “Students and their families want the same end result as employers want: graduates who are ready, willing, and able to take on the careers of tomorrow.”

Locally, UM Technologies in Moosic has seen significant growth but has been unable to hire for their open positions locally due to the skills gap.

“At UM Tech, we have expanded our hiring footprint and successfully grew our overall staff by 100% over the last 24 months, but only one-quarter of that growth was able to happen locally,” added UM Technologies President and CEO Scott Stiner. “The greatest challenge has been finding enough available resumes with the progressive skillsets to fill our open positions.”

Other participants in the public hearing included Dr. Kirk Williard, Executive Director of Career, Technical & Customized Education, Chester County IU; Carrie Amann, Deputy Secretary of Policy and Planning, Office of the Governor; Lyndsay Grady, Workforce Development Director, Scranton Chamber of Commerce; Kellyn Nolan, Chief Academic Officer, Johnson College; Eileen Cipriani, Deputy Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry; Teri Ooms, Executive Director, Institue for Public Policy and Economic Development; Brion Lieberman, VP of Human Resources, Geisinger; and Paul Casparro, Business Manager/Financial Secretary, IBEW Local 81.

Read Team Pennsylvania President & CEO Ryan Unger’s full testimony here.