Education Advocates and Employers: Skills Gap Can Be Overcome With Adequate Training, Integrated Programming

Harrisburg, PA – Today, U.S. Representative Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (PA-5), Co-Chairman of the bipartisan Congressional Career & Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, held a field hearing in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to discuss “The Role of Career & Technical Education in Creating a Skilled Workforce: Perspectives from Employers and Stakeholders.”
 
Thompson was joined by Pennsylvania State Senator John Blake (PA-22), U.S. Representative Mike Kelly (PA-3), U.S. Representative Scott Perry (PA-4), and the Caucus received witness testimony from education and workforce advocates and representatives from a range of private industries and employment sectors.
 
“We have an obligation, whether as local, state or federal policy makers, to ensure that all Americans have access to quality programs that will equip them with the skills needed to succeed in an evolving and globally competitive job market,” stated Rep. Thompson. “Today’s witness panel offered a range of insights into how we improve career and technical education programs, involve employers of all sizes, and ensure that individuals will have access to good paying, family sustaining jobs. I want to thank Senator Blake for his leadership in elevating the importance of CTE and for welcoming us to Harrisburg for this important hearing.”   

"I was very glad to welcome Congressman Glenn Thompson and the bipartisan Congressional Career and Technical Education Caucus to the state capitol.  Today's hearing, marked by exceptional testimony from CTE experts and practitioners, elevates the urgency of improved career focused education for our children,” stated Sen. Blake. “We need to better connect our schools to the business community -- and our business community to our schools -- so our children can find that spark to take them on the path to a successful career in the trades that build America and that pay family sustaining wages. Early and effective career development assures for our children a more efficient transition from school to the world of work and enhances our state's economic growth."
 
“CTE has a critically important role in developing the skilled workforce necessary to keep our nation economically competitive,” stated Ms. Kimberly A. Green, Executive Director, The National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium. “Today, more than ever, the spotlight on CTE is being shown on CTE as a proven strategy that engages students, aligns talent with opportunity, and ensures preparation for the workforce and further education. As employers struggle to find the skilled workers needed to fill millions of job vacancies, it is critical that CTE play a larger role in expanding the nation’s talent pipeline. Future Perkins legislation must strike a balance between the immediate labor needs of employers and the projected needs of the wider economy in the years to come.”

“CTE educators and employers need each other. There can be little effective technical training without collaboration between the two sectors – and not just one time or occasionally. What’s needed is a sustained, structured exchange of information and often day-to-day cooperation,” stated Ms. Tamar Jacoby, President of Opportunity America, testifying on behalf of the Opportunity America Jobs and Careers Coalition. “I’d like to thank Rep. Thompson for holding this hearing. I know my members are grateful for your leadership on workforce policy. The coalition looks forward to working with you and other members of the panel, to deliver on the promise of career and technical education – teaching young people the skills they need to be productive in the workplace even as it provides employers with the workers they need to remain competitive in a rapidly changing global economy.”
 
“Currently, our members are experiencing near full employment. This is substantially due to the Marcellus and Utica Shale booms as well as an increase in infrastructure and transportation spending,” stated Mr. Jim Kunz, Business Manager, International Union of Operating Engineers. “Yet, despite the steady employment, good wages and benefits finding qualified candidates for our program has been a challenge. It is important that we provide our school districts with the vocational resources and information on what life time careers are available in the building trades, on how an apprenticeship works and on the skills and qualifications required by the various trades."
 
“My organization is experiencing a workforce skills gap as baby boomers begin to retire, taking with them the much needed, and not easily replaceable hands-on experience and conventional knowledge they acquired over years in the industry,” stated Ms. Amanda Novak, Human Resource Manager, Tri-M Group, and the Associated Builders and Contractors Eastern Pennsylvania Apprenticeship Trust Chairman. “Pennsylvania has identified construction trades, including electricians, as a high priority occupation, but there’s still a lot of work to be done to align the skills shortage with our education system.”
 
“While I have shared many efforts to create the future workforce pipeline and Oberg’s intricate relationship with Career and Technical Education providers in our region, more needs to be done,” stated Mr. Neil Ashbaugh, Training and Development Specialist, Oberg Industries, Freeport, Armstrong County, PA. “We need to work together to build more awareness with our students, parents, educators, and business and civic leaders to show them the benefits of skills training and education. Family sustaining jobs are not a fantasy, but rather a reality when coupled with the right training and a passion for life-long learning.”  
 
"Companies decide to move into an area or relocate out of an area based on whether they can have access to a skilled workforce. They look to the career & technical schools to provide a pipeline of trained workers," stated Sandra Himes, Executive Director of the Lehigh Career & Technical Institute, Lehigh County, PA. "The ingredients of quality CTE programs rely upon the true involvement from business and industry.”

###