The PA Department of Labor & Industry and leading regional workforce boards have been encouraging employers in key industries to come together in each region of the state into training consortia now called Industry Partnerships. These partnerships allow engaged employers to identify skill gaps, provide them with clear information on industry skill needs, and work with educators to design training to help incumbent and new workers acquire the skills needed in each business and industry.
What began as a concept focused on critical shortages in healthcare has become a national model program in a dozen states. Pennsylvania's industry partnerships have now engaged over 6,000 businesses and trained over 100,000 workers. This is what happens when the private sector works in partnership with the Commonwealth and takes a leadership role in area workforce boards.
As well as helping workers acquire skills-in-demand, Pennsylvania's Industry Partnerships have fostered 21st century career paths with portable and stackable credentials in industries such as: logistics and transportation, healthcare, construction, manufacturing, information technology and bio-medicine.
The Chamber of Commerce works hand-in-hand with the Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board, Inc. (LVWIB) and we have seen firsthand how this public/private partnership increases the Lehigh Valley's competitiveness. Based on extensive knowledge of employers and job opportunities in an industry sector, Industry Partnerships identify training and other services that have major positive impacts for businesses and workers--incumbent, low-income, and long-term unemployed--while also making the overall education and training system more effective. Since 2005, LVWIB has received over $5 million in IP funds from the PA Dept. of Labor and Industry, providing resources to train over 10,000 workers and involving more than 300 employers.
Revenue reports from the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue indicate that the Commonwealth is receiving revenue which exceeds previous projections. This additional state income will enable the Governor and the General Assembly to increase spending on some very important programs that have either been reduced or eliminated in the 2012-2013 General Fund Budget. As we discuss prioritizing programs that are deserving of additional funding, The Chamber's members strongly support restoration of Industry Partnership funding, which is currently in the proposed 2012-2013 budget at a 90% reduction to its 2008-09 level.
For fiscal year 2011-2012, the Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board, Inc. received two Industry Partnership grants: $95,000 for Healthcare and $95,000 for Diversified Manufacturing for incumbent worker training targeted towards high priority occupations. LVWIB had requested funding for Energy, Logistics and Transportation, and Food and Beverage, but, unfortunately, did not receive separate funding for these industries. However, since LVWIB always looks for solutions for employers, L&T and Food/Beverage employers were folded into the Diversified Manufacturing Industry Partnership. LVWIB staff also worked with neighboring Workforce Investment Boards to identify potential resources for energy-related employers.
In his Budget Overview, Governor Corbett described a comprehensive workforce strategy that includes "Employer-Driven Training Initiatives" and highlights the importance of the Industry Partnership program as key to achieving "Performance-Based Training." To accomplish the goal of a workforce strategy that integrates a comprehensive job-matching system, employer-driven training and economic development focused on Pennsylvania's greatest resource - our workers - Industry Partnerships must be a cornerstone of that process.
Our legislators have a great opportunity to help workers develop the skills that local companies need to create solid and stable employment opportunities. An injection of funds for Industry Partnerships will help Pennsylvania maintain its leadership and, more importantly, help sustain the Pennsylvania Dream for decades.