Bethlehem – Under Sen. Lisa Boscola’s direction, the Senate Democratic Policy Committee today held a roundtable discussion here on workforce development issues and challenges facing community colleges and trade schools.

“Any legislative effort to stoke our economy and create jobs must include an aggressive workforce training plan,” said Sen. Lisa Boscola, who chairs the committee. “While my fellow Senate Democrats and I have already introduced job training bills, I want the committee to get input from local educators and business leaders on this legislation as well as their own ideas for how best to train our workers for good jobs today – and tomorrow.”

Boscola said getting people back to work is the key to rebounding from the recession.

“We need to pinpoint what is working, and what is not, and how various proposals would impact our region,” she added. 

At a time when creating jobs is more critical than ever, Boscola called it ironic that the Corbett Administration has recommended another round of budget cuts for community colleges – lowering state support on a per pupil basis to 1995-96 funding levels.

Dr. Art Scott, president of Northampton Community College, told the committee, “You have to invest in education if you want to foster economic development.”

He pointed to his school’s success in placing students at the Sands Bethlehem Casino as an example of targeting a curriculum for job opportunities. Chris Donigal, who serves as vice president of Human Resources for B. Braun, added that many community colleges and technical schools often prepare students who are more applicable to employers.

Last year, Senate Democrats unveiled a legislative package, called PA Works Now, which is aimed at invigorating Pennsylvania’s economy and creating jobs. Boscola said the Democratic plan would leverage $2 billion in private investment to help put people to work, cut business taxes and help small businesses be more competitive, rebuild the state’s aging infrastructure, foster the growth of promising new clean and green energy industries and retool worker training programs.

Boscola herself introduced a bill that would provide tax credits for businesses that employ qualified interns.

“Across the state, expert after expert has told us that we are failing our kids by herding them toward careers that aren’t out there,” Boscola said. “The time has come to recognize that a four-year college education isn’t the only path to a good job and family-sustaining career.

“As I said on the Senate floor earlier this year, Community colleges, technical schools, apprenticeship programs, employer-sponsored programs and military service can no longer be viewed as some ugly step-sister to a four-year college education. It is time that we recognize that these entities train and prepare young people for some of the most promising and lucrative careers available these days.”

The Northampton County lawmaker also urged schools to help train more Pennsylvanians for jobs in the growing gas drilling industry, as well as the ancillary jobs in related industries. Representatives from local colleges and training schools said they are in the process of tailoring more training programs and aggressively marketing such educational opportunities.

“While the industry has created thousands of good jobs, we still see too many out-of state license plates at these facilities,” Boscola said.

Senators joining Boscola at today’s discussion at Northampton Community College included: John Blake (D-Lackawanna), Andy Dinniman (D-Chester), Judy Schwank (D-Berks), and Christine Tartaglione (D-Phila.).

 Other panelists included:

  •  Dr. Art Scott – president of Northampton Community College;
  • Karen Veres – director of career services, Northampton Community College;
  • Nancy Dishinat – executive director, Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board;
  • Michelle Griffin-Young – executive vice president, Government and External Affairs, Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce;
  • Dr. Thomas Rushton, executive director of the Monroe Career and Technical Institute;
  • Dr. Ronald Roth – administrative director of the Career Institute of Technology;
  • Brian Williams – executive director of the Bethlehem Area Vocational Technical School;
  • Chris Donigal, vice president of human resources for B. Braun.

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