Gov. Tom Wolf is expected to sign a bill that advocates say may help diminish the skills gap in Pennsylvania by boosting resources and awareness for career and technical education.
“With the governor in agreement that workforce development needs to be a priority in Pennsylvania,” state Rep. Mindy Fee, R-Manheim, said, “we are in a great position to make real strides in setting up today’s students for in-demand jobs with good pay and longevity.”
Fee is one of 36 cosponsors supporting the legislation, which, as originally written, would expand a public database run by the state Department of Education that displays which courses and programs can transfer among public schools and colleges.
Language from a handful of other bills has been added since it was introduced in January by state Rep. Craig Staats, R-Bucks County.
The legislation, House Bill 265, would create an online career resource center where students, parents and school officials can research career pathways as well as employment and compensation data; allow career and technical education programs to establish occupational advisory committees at the local intermediate unit level; incentivize workforce development partnerships by offering grants from the Department of Labor and Industry; and change references to “vocational-technical schools” in the school code to “career and technical schools.”
Narrowing ‘skills gap’
William Griscom, president of Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology in Lancaster, said these proposals “address a huge skills gap that exists not only in Pennsylvania but the nation.”
At Thaddeus Stevens this year, 1,400 employers with more than 4,000 job openings sought about 380 graduates, he said.
Griscom said a local employer helping the school create a diesel mechanics program told him that it had 1,200 openings for diesel mechanics.
“Manufacturing is the number one driver in the Lancaster economy, and we’re fortunate to have it,” Griscom said. “But we don’t want to lose it. We want to grow it.”
Employers may be forced to leave the area if they don’t have, as Griscom said, “access to human capital.”
Also advocating for the bill is House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler, R-Peach Bottom, who in a statement on his website urged Wolf to sign it.
“In many sectors of our state’s economy, we currently have more job openings than qualified people to fill them,” Cutler said. “This package is a crucial step in removing barriers holding back Pennsylvanians from getting the training required to fill these family-sustaining careers.”
The bill passed both the House and Senate unanimously. The governor’s spokesman told LNP Wolf expects to sign the bill once it arrives on his desk.