Pennsylvania is a state with a high unemployment rate and a large number of frustrated displaced workers. It is also a place where numerous industries are unable to fill positions because of the lack of untrained workers. How does the state plan to remedy these two problems quickly and effectively? Thanks to recent federal funding into the state’s community college system, training for in-demand jobs is on the way for Pennsylvania residents that need those jobs the most.
What is JobTrakPA?
JobTrakPA is a new Pennsylvania program created with federal dollars from the Department of Labor. The agency recently awarded the state a $20 million grant through the Department of Labor Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training (TACT) program. The program allows displaced Pennsylvania workers to train for in-demand jobs within the state by pairing community college course offerings directly with the needs of the community. The program has awarded grants to states across the country that demonstrated a need for job re-training and the necessary resources to provide the right kind of training to displaced workers in the community.
“Pennsylvania employers tell us that they have jobs waiting for workers with career-specific skills in several high-growth industries,” Dr. Alex Johnson, president of the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges, told the Herald Online. “Community colleges are part of a nationwide effort to provide a new skill-set to our workforce that will create career pathways for qualified workers in the shortest possible time.”
Pennsylvania residents who have been out of work need jobs as soon as possible to pay off the bills that have been slowly accumulating throughout the period of unemployment. Long college degree programs that take many years to complete are simply not practical for many of these individuals. The community colleges in the state, in partnership with Pennsylvania CareerLink, are coordinating more than 15,000 workers that qualify for Trade Adjustment Assistance into JobTrakPA so that they can receive the re-training they need to get quickly back to work.
This video reports on a funding issue in Pennsylvania community colleges.
Industries of Focus
While the type of training will vary somewhat from school to school, there are three primary industries that JobTrakPA will be focusing on:
- Energy: Distribution, Conservation, and Production
- Advanced Manufacturing
- Healthcare Information Technology
These industries promise numerous job opportunities, as all of these industries are projected to grow substantially in the coming years. For example, the energy industry is predicting the addition of around 32,000 jobs over the next four years, while the advanced manufacturing industry is expected to add nearly 5,000 more jobs in the near future. Healthcare information technology, an industry growing nationally, is predicted to add around 9,000 more positions in Pennsylvania alone by 2016.
“The community colleges have always been committed to providing students with the workforce skills they need to gain employment and be ready to work on Day One,” Diane Bosak, executive director of the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges, told the Herald Online. “JobTrakPA is allowing the colleges to collaborate in an unprecedented way with employers to lead students through course completion and into job placement. This initiative will certainly help to respond to the state’s workforce needs.”
The specific types of programs will depend on the individual college and will be based on employment needs for that specific area. Schools have partnered with those employers to ensure the training provided at the college will directly meet the employment needs of each company. Colleges will also be required to hire dedicated staff that will ensure students can complete their career training programs to find employment soon after.
Training Available at Northampton Community College
One of the recipients of JobTrakPA funding, Northampton Community College is offering fast-track training in a wide range of industries, including HVAC, renewable energy, and manufacturing. This school, located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, allows students to earn certification in their chosen field to advance them to employment faster. Those interested in the programs can schedule a tour of the campus or an appointment to speak with a PA CareerLink specialist.
This video offers a glimpse of Northampton Community College.
Delaware County Community College Gets Students Back to Work
Another partner in the JobTrakPA program is Delaware County Community College, which promises to put Pennsylvania residents back to work fast. This school is featuring certificate programs in solar and geothermal energy, healthcare information technology, and advanced manufacturing. Programs are career-specific and run anywhere from three to 14 weeks in length. Career counseling and job placement assistance is also available.
Fast Track Programs Available at Westmoreland County Community College
Westmoreland County Community College, also a member of JobTrakPA, offers a layered approach to career training that gets students into jobs quickly and allows them to continue earning college credits toward a degree program. The school offers this approach in its natural gas and oil program, which provides both classroom training and field experience for students. The 19-credit program can be completed in a single semester for full-time students and includes job placement assistance for those who want to enter the workforce right away.
Unemployment is still a problem across the country, with states like Pennsylvania feeling the pinch. Thanks to TACT funding from the Department of Labor, displaced workers can now get the assistance they need in Pennsylvania to train for currently available jobs. With various industries and certification programs offered, students can choose a program that meets their interests and employment needs right in their own communities.
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