In order to ensure that Pennsylvania can continue to boast a skilled and inspired workforce and remain competitive in the global market, the PA Chamber has made workforce development a cornerstone of its mission. To that end, we are working to close the jobs skills gap through our dynamic “Start the Conversation HERE” initiative that is connecting students, educators and employers and informing them about in-demand jobs. We are also working with policymakers to strengthen existing workforce development programs and ensure that the Commonwealth is fully developing and harnessing the talent, skills and capacities of its citizens.
Bringing Pennsylvania’s economy out of the devastating COVID-19 era will be a challenging, multi-year effort – but with this responsibility also comes an enormous opportunity to re-explore the ways in which we attract and retain investment in Pennsylvania. Our “Bringing PA Back” initiative is guided by taking a fresh look at the ways in which we can collectively improve our state’s competitiveness; expand upon the education and career opportunities available to every Pennsylvanian; and build a 21st century infrastructure that will cement our state’s status as a global economic leader.
Workforce development is central to these goals. Long before COVID-19 was reported in the Commonwealth – in fact, back in 2016 – the PA Chamber adopted this issue as a core tenet of our mission as it was one that Pennsylvania employers listed as their No. 1 top-of-mind concern, as a jobs skills gap still exists between the positions that are available and the qualifications that job seekers are able to offer.
Through our internal efforts and our support for bipartisan legislation, the PA Chamber embraces our role as a leader in closing the jobs skills gap and arming Pennsylvanians with the information and connections they need to forge a bright career path and become a part of our world-class, 21st century workforce.
During the 2019-20 legislative session, we were proud to support an occupational licensure bill that streamlines the process by which former, low-level offenders can train and obtain a license for a variety of careers. This builds on legislation the PA Chamber’s support was central to seeing through - a first-of-its-kind “Clean Slate” bill that allows non-violent former offenders from having their previous records sealed from public view, thereby giving them a chance at securing employment.
In 2021, our workforce development efforts are carrying over into our robust “Bringing PA Back” effort. Throughout this pandemic, Pennsylvania employers have continued to experience workforce challenges that are detrimental to our efforts to restore our economy. We are urging lawmakers this session to build on the achievements we’ve celebrated together through policies that will help students better prepare for a future career; facilitate upskilling opportunities for incumbent workers; and encourage those on the sidelines or who have lost their jobs through this pandemic to transition back to the workforce. All of these efforts will result in Pennsylvania being a more attractive option for businesses looking to grow and hire, and for individuals embarking on their careers or relocating.
PA Chamber President and CEO Gene Barr issued the following statement in response to Gov. Tom Wolf announcing a series of executive orders impacting employers and the workplace.
Last Wednesday, the Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee held a hearing covering the economic impact of the workforce shortage. PA Chamber President Gene Barr joined the committee to share the voice of countless businesses across the Commonwealth that have been affected by this challenge. A copy of Gene’s submitted testimony is available here.
Responding to skyrocketing claims of Unemployment Insurance Fraud, the PA Department of Labor and Industry this week provided employers with helpful tips for reporting fraudulent claims. When responding to a Notice of Claim Filed that you believe to be fraudulent, keep the following tips in mind:
Yesterday, PA Chamber President and CEO Gene Barr joined CBS21’s Ryan Eldredge on Face the State to discuss the most significant problems for business as Pennsylvania emerges from the pandemic economy. Potentially the most critical issue: The current workforce crisis. Employers, already struggling to recover after pandemic-era restrictions, are increasingly facing an impediments to fully reopening— including $300 per week in federal pandemic assistance funds on top of standard unemployment compensation checks. With this money, the federal government is actively disincentivizing individuals from returning to work. Meanwhile, companies without workers are left to cancel orders, increase lead times, lose contracts and cut hours and services to stay afloat.
On Friday, Governor Tom Wolf joined Democratic members of the House and Senate, including House Democratic Leader Joanna McClinton, in Philadelphia to again call for a raise in Pennsylvania's minimum wage. Without regard for the economic consequences of this proposal, Gov. Wolf has repeatedly called for the state's minimum wage to be raised to $15 per hour after an initial increase to $12. The governor and advocates have also proposed eliminating the tipped credit system used primarily by the restaurant industry, which would force these small businesses to increase labor costs by 425 percent as they continue struggling to recover from the pandemic.
Over the last 18 months, Pennsylvania employers and workers adapted to unprecedented challenges as shuttered schools and childcare facilities required typically full-time staff to care for their families on short notice.
Governor Wolf opted to neither sign nor veto H.B. 336, the Administrative Code bill that is one of four bills accompanying the state budget passed in late June. Without action by the governor, legislation passing the General Assembly becomes law after 10 days.
Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry President and CEO Gene Barr issued the following statement upon the release of a joint report between the PA Chamber, PA Early Learning Investment Commission, and the Center for Rural Pennsylvania on childcare and the workforce:
Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry President and CEO Gene Barr issued the following statement on the Pennsylvania General Assembly’s vote to block an onerous final overtime rule that would have hurt Pennsylvania businesses:
PA Chamber of Business and Industry President and CEO Gene Barr issued the following statement regarding the current state of Pennsylvania’s workforce as employers experience challenges filling open positions:
For the past 130 years, Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania has built a rich legacy of being one of the most comprehensive youth services providers in both Allegheny and Somerset counties by living out our mission to activate and advance the potential in every child by doing whatever it takes to ensure they have GREAT FUTURES.
Workforce development and training aligned with 21st century demands is essential to enhancing the economic growth of the Greater Pittsburgh region. Over the past few years, as our aging workforce has started to retire, there has been a noticeable void of qualified individuals to fill the gaps. With certificate programs, continuing education credits and training programs quickly becoming the industry standard for education, the Community College of Allegheny County has positioned itself as the gateway to regional employment opportunities.
In manufacturing and other applied technology sectors, a shortage of skilled workers has been a vexing and ongoing challenge for many years. Too few students pursue manufacturing-related career pathways, too few parents know enough about modern manufacturing and the associated opportunities to encourage that pursuit, and the existing workforce is short on the required skills to fill the needs of employers. Add the retirement of 10,000 baby boomers per day to the mix, and you have a perfect storm of skilled labor disconnect.
A frontrunner in Industry 4.0 training, the Schmidt Training and Technology Center, a dedicated facility at Reading Area Community College for advanced manufacturing technology in Reading, PA, is ready to position operators and technicians to be solely efficient and effective - no outsourcing.
Information technology has become an integral part of every business, and employers need a workforce that is proficient in technology. Over the years, the need for technology skills has grown beyond just the IT department. Due to this high demand, many employers no longer require a four year degree for technology roles that can be filled by candidates who have the specific skills and certifications to perform the job.
Berks Connections/Pretrial Services has been in the Life Improvement Business serving the criminal justice population in Berks County for close to 45 years. A lack of job training and opportunities for stable employment at a living wage present significant barriers to our clients’ reentry success. Lack of employment is not only a quality of life issue, but can also have serious implications on an individual’s likelihood to recidivate.
PA Chamber of Business and Industry President and CEO Gene Barr issued the following statement after Gov. Tom Wolf signed S.B. 637, legislation that helps Pennsylvanians with criminal records re-enter the workforce by reforming the process by which they can obtain an occupational license:
In this era of partisan bickering, it often seems as if there is little Republicans and Democrats can accomplish. But despite all the gridlock reported in media headlines, the Pennsylvania State Senate recently approved my bill, S.B. 637, by a unanimous vote. Their strong support for the legislation further underscores an emerging bipartisan consensus towards commonsense criminal justice reform that facilitates former inmates’ successful re-entry into our workforce and communities.
By Secretary Teresa Miller
Mandatory infrastructure upgrades are forcing contractors and utilities to rapidly increase work capacity. However, this is completely dependent upon companies having the trained staff available to tackle a growing list of projects. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, Pennsylvania alone needs to add about 137,000 construction workers by 2021 in order to keep up with demand. Not only does this require hiring new employees, but also retaining and developing them to keep pace with the needs of the nation’s infrastructure.
To be successful in today’s global economy, Pennsylvania must develop and harness the talent, skills and capacities of its citizens. Students must be prepared and workers must be able to adapt and continually acquire the training and skills required in the modern workplace. Unfortunately, public workforce development programs are too often based on out-of-date industrial models and not designed to meet current needs.
The Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry strongly encourages policymakers to undertake regular and thorough reviews of existing workforce development programs to make sure each is achieving its objective at an acceptable cost-per-participant. These reviews should include a cost-benefit analysis and always strive to reduce fragmentation and provide more efficient delivery of services. Moreover, these reviews should be readily available to the public.
In addition, the Pennsylvania Chamber supports: