Federal dollars to help Pennsylvania's community colleges train workers for 21st century jobs

New courses in advanced manufacturing, energy and healthcare technology will help train, retrain workers

(Harrisburg) Laid-off or underemployed workers will now have a better chance to enter high-wage, high-demand jobs throughout the state with the help of a $20 million grant from the U.S Department of Labor to Pennsylvania's 14 community colleges.

The Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant awarded today will help the community colleges to expand their capacity to meet the skill needs of state or local industries while increasing attainment of college degrees and other industry-recognized credentials.

"This is yet another example of how community colleges are adaptive and ready to meet the workforce needs of the community," said Dr. Nick Neupauer, President of Butler County Community College. "The $20 million grant will be distributed among Pennsylvania's 14 community colleges to provide training, career coaching, and job readiness skills for displaced workers."

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 57 percent of those who work in a trade-related field in Pennsylvania have received only a high school diploma or equivalent and nearly 60 percent of Pennsylvania's trade workers are 40-60 years old.

"This grant is transformative in that it supports all of Pennsylvania's community colleges in collectively responding to the commonwealth's workforce development needs with new programs and support services that are aligned with the needs of our workforce system," said Dr. Karen Stout, president of Montgomery County Community College. "The grant will help our community colleges rapidly produce high-skilled workers for employment in industry sectors that will define the economy of our state and our nation for years to come."

Pennsylvania's community colleges have already begun work on strategies and statewide procedures to accelerate recruitment, retention, credential attainment and job placement for low-skilled adults.

"The community colleges are collaborating in an unprecedented way to bring our workforce delivery and curriculum development systems to scale for achieving new levels of success with our adult students, particularly for our laid-off workers who have little chance of returning to prior wage levels without new credentials," said Diane Bosak, executive director of the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges.

With the assistance of this grant, the colleges will begin to build programs around industries such as advanced manufacturing, energy distribution, production and conservation, and healthcare and information technology. The type of courses offered will vary regionally, based on the needs in that specific area.

"Meeting the needs of this unique workforce will require community colleges like BC3 to acknowledge not only workforce needs, but college readiness needs for student success," said Dr. Francie Spigelmyer, Vice President for Academic Affairs at BC3."With this grant, we will be able to prepare future workers so they can compete and thrive in a competitive job market."

According to employers, job openings are expected in these industries but there is a critical shortage of qualified workers to fill these jobs. The grant will help the community colleges to work with area employers and design curriculum which will serve industry needs.

For more information about the grant, contact Jamie Yates at the PA Commission for Community Colleges at 717-232-7584 or at jyates@pacommunitycolleges.org.