Senate Hearing Focuses on Career Readiness, Workforce Development

Senate Hearing Focuses on Career Readiness, Workforce Development

DUNMORE, April 19, 2018 – State Sen. John Blake today 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 Wiliard, 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.

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Senate Passes Blake’s Economic Development, Clean Energy Initiative

Senate Passes Blake’s Economic Development, Clean Energy Initiative

HARRISBURG, January 30, 2018 – The state Senate today overwhelmingly approved legislation sponsored by state Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) that would generate significant economic development, create jobs and enhance Pennsylvania’s clean energy portfolio.

Senate Bill 234, which now moves to the House of Representatives after passing the Senate by a 42-8 vote, would establish Pennsylvania’s Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program which is a financing mechanism that enables low-cost, long-term funding for energy efficiency, renewable energy and water conservation upgrades to commercial, agricultural or industrial properties.

 

“PACE gives local governments across Pennsylvania a powerful tool to support the commercial, industrial and agricultural community as business interests invest in energy efficiency, solar power and water conservation projects.  PACE advances the use of cutting edge technologies while creating jobs,” Blake said.  “PACE, which is supported by private lending, does not impose upon Pennsylvania taxpayers and, in fact, will result in more economic activity that will drive increased revenues into the Commonwealth’s General Fund.”

Blake worked closely with state Sen. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Allegheny/Washington) and a diverse group of stakeholders from the business, labor and environmental communities on the bipartisan legislation over the past year.

Under Senate Bill 234, a local government would be able to choose to participate in or develop a PACE financing program. PACE financing would not require any public funds; participating local communities would be tasked with collecting the assessment on the improved building and remit it for payment on the debt incurred from the building’s energy-efficiency and clean energy technology upgrades.

The legislation was introduced by Senator Blake in the prior legislative session as Senate Bill 1069 but it did not move from the Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee.

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Senate Democrats Roll Out Billion Dollar Job Creation Plan

HARRISBURG – September 26 – State Senate Democrats today unveiled their revised job creation plan, called “PA Works Now,” which they claim would create 80,000 new jobs and leverage billions in private investment to generate jobs and economic activity. 

State Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) said job creation is the number one priority for this fall’s session of the General Assembly.   He added that the PA Works Now package does not require new broad based taxes, is fully paid for and does not put additional strain on the state General Fund.

“PA Works Now features a new investment vehicle called the Pennsylvania Investment Bank that will quickly pump $1.2 billion into the economy and create jobs,” Costa said.  “Our goal is to jump start the economy and create new jobs in the shortest possible time.

“Job creation is the most important issue lawmakers must tackle this fall.” 

The Democrats’ plan includes renewed investment in job-producing programs and public works such as water and sewer projects as well as money for new business investments.  The plan also provides a new round of capital infusion for the state Machinery and Equipment Loan Fund and would establish Pennsylvania’s version of the successful “Georgia Works” on-the-job training program.

The Pennsylvania Investment Bank would target more than $1.2 billion for water and sewer system reconstruction, new business investment and other public works.  The bank would capture funds generated from existing borrowing capacity.  The bank would use $500 million in Commonwealth Finance Authority dollars plus a half-billion from PENNVEST (Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority). 

The investment bank would also utilize $80 million in funds from a proposed Marcellus Shale tax or fee along with surplus state revenues.  Democrats estimate that these sources would generate $180 million.

“There are so many workers who are looking for jobs and even more who are worried about what is next for them in this very difficult economic recovery,” Costa said.  “Our comprehensive PA Works Now plan addresses job creation and presents an opportunity to move our economy forward.”

Democrats said action is needed now on their job creation plan because of the recent increase in unemployment.  Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate spiked by nearly a half percent from July to August – rising to 8.2 percent.  Since May, the number of unemployed Pennsylvanians grew by 45,000. 

Senate Democratic Appropriations Chair Vincent J. Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery) decried the alarming increase in unemployment and the inaction of both the Corbett Administration and Republican lawmakers who control floor action in both the state House and Senate.

“The Corbett Administration has failed to respond to the hardship in the labor market in any discernable way,” Hughes said.  “The administration is either tone-deaf to the plight of the unemployed or focusing on political wedge issues that do not create jobs.  They’ve produced no new jobs plan.

“The priorities of the administration are skewed,” Hughes said.  

Hughes criticized Corbett and Republicans for focusing on changing the apportionment of electoral votes, English-only legislation and voter ID legislation.  These issues interest only “politicos on the extreme political fringe of the Republican Party. These proposals do nothing to help our economy grow,” Hughes said. 

“We are stuck debating issues that appeal to the political extreme at the expense of working families,” Hughes said.  “Working men and women need jobs.  They don’t need political talk.  That is a sham and it’s a shame.”

Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks) said the state has lost an opportunity to reverse negative economic trends.  She noted that the recent business downturn has had a disproportionate impact on educators, women, minorities and Pennsylvania’s youth. 

According to Schwank, the Corbett budget cuts have put several thousand educators or school staff out of work.  The Berks county lawmaker said Senate Democrats will soon flesh-out a package of bills that would specifically help women, minorities and young people find jobs.

“Failing to take action now condemns those who have a difficulty getting jobs in a robust economy – women, minorities and our youth – to even deeper despair when the labor market contracts,” Schwank said.  “Doing nothing on job creation is not an answer and it’s not fair.  That’s why we need to work on a jobs plan like PA Works Now.”

Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe), who previously served as secretary of the state Department of Community and Economic Development, said PA Works Now would inject much-needed capital into business investment and job creation programs.  He said doing so is essential toward generating economic activity and employment opportunities now. 

“There is no question that our recovery from the recession is soft,” Blake said.  “The state has a responsibility to incent private sector investment for job growth.”

Costa, Hughes, Schwank and Blake were joined by a host of Senate Democratic colleagues at the Capitol news conference. 

Senate Democrats unveiled a previous version of PA Works earlier this year. 

Senators who attended today’s news conference included Democratic Whip Anthony H. Williams (D-Philadelphia), Caucus Chairman Richard Kasunic (D-Fayette/Somerset), Caucus Secretary Christine M. Tartaglione (D-Philadelphia), Caucus Administrator Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny) and state Sens. Andy Dinniman (D-Chester), Daylin Leach (D-Delaware/Montgomery), John Yudichak (D-Luzerne/Monroe/Carbon) and Tim Solobay (D-Washington/Greene).

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Blake Brings Policy Committee to Marywood for Energy & Job Creation Hearing

HARRISBURG, April 13, 2011 – – State Sen. John P. Blake today announced that the Senate Democratic Policy Committee will host a public hearing in Scranton on energy, economic development and job creation initiatives.

The hearing will be held at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 20 in the Nazareth Student Center at Marywood University.

Blake will be joined at the hearing by Policy Committee Chair Lisa Boscola (D- Northampton/ Lehigh/Monroe), Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) and other Senate Democrats.
“I am excited to bring my Senate colleagues and our legislative proposals to Lackawanna County,”

Blake said. “This public hearing will be a great opportunity for legislators to not only discuss with our residents the pressing budget issues we are facing in Harrisburg, but also a great opportunity for our community and business leaders to share their experience and to discuss important, energy-related business opportunities in Northeastern Pennsylvania.”

The Blue-Green Jobs and Energy hearing will feature testimony from community leaders from the economic development, labor, job training and academic community.

“As chair of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, I am constantly looking for opportunities to take our committee around the state to hear local concerns on pressing issues,” Boscola added. “This hearing is another opportunity for the public to influence our policy decisions and goals as we move forward with state budget negotiations.”

Blake said that the Policy Hearing participants include:

  • R. Chadwick Paul, president and CEO of Ben Franklin Technologies;
  • Eric Esoda, executive director of Northeastern Pennsylvania Industrial Resource Center, Inc.;
  • Kurt Bauman, Government Services Manager, NEPA Alliance;
  • Gregory K. Hunt, founding dean, Marywood University School of Architecture
  • Dr. Ann Pipinski, president of Johnson College;
  • Paul Casparrow, electrical training educator for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers;
  • Jim Teeple, vice president of Global Operations, Weiler Corporation
  • James Palumbo, president of Quad 3
  • Lew Grant, general manager of Valmont Industries

The hearing will start with a presentation by Sen. Blake highlighting the Senate Democrats’ budget priorities and the PA Works job creation initiative. The six-point plan is projected to create tens of thousands of jobs in Pennsylvania while reducing state spending and encouraging private investment throughout the state.

“As the legislature continues to look for innovative and fiscally responsible ways to close the $4 billion budget gap, it is imperative that job creation remain our number one priority,” Senate Democratic leader Jay Costa said. “Our PA Works program will not only create much-needed jobs throughout the state, but it will also promote a business-friendly environment and expand business opportunities. As we continue to work our way out of this recession, we know that jobs and smart, well-focused investment will put Pennsylvania back on track.”

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Blake Takes Jobs Message to 22nd District

SCRANTON, February 25, 2011 – – At a number of events throughout Lackawanna County today, state Sen. John P. Blake highlighted the details of a Senate Democratic proposal that has the potential to create over 28,000 jobs while reducing state spending and encouraging private investment.

Blake, joined by Senate Democratic Appropriations Chairman Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia /Montgomery County), said that the six-point PA Works plan will focus on small business, workforce training, critical state investments, clean and green energy, infrastructure investment and tax fairness.

“Here in the Scranton area, good jobs are becoming increasingly scarce while our unemployment rate remains among the highest in Pennsylvania,” Blake said. “PA Works is not another new means of government spending, but a retooling of current spending for better impact and job creation.”

Blake said that PA Works is the first step towards stimulating and growing Pennsylvania’s economy and is expected to leverage over $2 billion in new private investments while resulting in more than $150 million in General Fund savings.

“If we are going to put Pennsylvania’s economy back on track, we need to look at every issue through the ‘job creation lens,’” Hughes said. “PA Works not only puts our friends and neighbors back to work, but it invests in our future through infrastructure improvements, workforce training and small business development.”

The initiatives proposed in PA Works rely exclusively on increased utilization of existing funding sources, most notably the more than $500 million remaining unspent by the Commonwealth Financing Authority.

“The success of our small business community has always been a barometer for the Scranton area,” Blake added. “If we want to cut unemployment, expand small business and attract big business it is imperative that the legislature embraces innovative, cost-effective proposals like PA Works.”

For further details on the PA Works proposal visit www.senatorblake.com.

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