Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf Visits Lehigh Valley to Announce New Manufacturing Initiative
By Colin McEvoy on October 30, 2017
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf visited the Lehigh Valley to announce a new initiative to support manufacturing in Pennsylvania and link job training to career pathways that provide higher pay and opportunities for advancement with the state’s manufacturers in today’s global economy.
Wolf chose the National Museum of Industrial History in Bethlehem to unveil the Manufacturing PA initiative, which he said will partner the commonwealth’s research universities and resource centers to accelerate manufacturing technology advancement, foster manufacturing innovation, and build a 21st century workforce.
“These programs have been developed to respond to the needs that the manufacturing community has been expressing for years by marrying our state’s job training programs with real careers in the manufacturing industry,” Wolf said to a crowd of about 85 people on Oct. 27.
“These programs benefit both the workforce and employers by creating customized training that is tailored to specific needs, and produces highly skilled employees while giving them access to a family sustaining wage and opportunities for advancement,” he said.
High performance manufacturing was identified by Garner Economics as one of the four optimal target sectors of the Lehigh Valley based on the site-specific characteristics of the regional economy. The others included high value business services, life science research and manufacturing, and food and beverage processing.
The region’s central location, proximity to markets, well-developed transportation infrastructure, strong workforce, and availability of water and sewer lines to industrial sites were among some of the factors that led Garner Economics to identify manufacturing as a target sector for the region.
The National Museum of Industrial History is housed in an 18,000-square-foot, 100-year-old former Bethlehem Steel facility at 602 E 2nd Street. Kara Cenni, President and CEO of the museum, called it the perfect backdrop for the governor’s manufacturing initiative announcements.
“As we celebrate America’s industrial past and innovations, we aim to educate and inspire future generations of manufacturers, inventors, and visionaries,” Cenni said. “By inspiring our students to enter the manufacturing field through our education and outreach programs, we support Pennsylvania’s programs to create a culture that fosters manufacturing excellence.”
Manufacturing PA is a $12 million initiative, Wolf said: “But if this is successful, this will unleash hundreds of millions of great ideas, great products, and great services for Pennsylvania. That’s what this is all about.”
The initiative is broken in made up of three new programs, Wolf said, each of aims to provide support for Pennsylvania’s manufacturing community in different ways. They include the Pennsylvania Manufacturing Training-to-Career Grant, the Pennsylvania Manufacturing Innovation Program, and expansions to the state’s existing Industrial Resource Centers.
The Pennsylvania Manufacturing Training-to-Career Grant will help companies identify and train a skilled workforce while creating a workplace culture that enables the workforce to advance and the company to grow, Wolf said.
“We need to make sure we have the skills that we need,” Wolf said. “When I was running for governor three years ago, you’d ask people what the biggest issue is, and they’d say ‘We need jobs.’ That’s not what they’re saying anymore. They’re saying ‘We need skills. We need people who can do the things we need them to do.’”
The grants will be provided to Pennsylvania manufacturers who partner with schools and nonprofit organizations in the development and deployment of workforce development programs.
The Pennsylvania Manufacturing Innovation Program will leverage the science and engineering talent and discovery capacity of Pennsylvania’s higher education institutions to help keep the state an international leader in manufacturing, Wolf said.
This will include a Manufacturing Fellows program, designed to support designated undergraduate and graduate student Fellows in both long-and short-term engagements with industry.
Additionally, Wolf said, Pennsylvania’s Industrial Resource Centers will expand their outreach to include small- and medium-sized businesses, and will continue to provide technical, strategic, and market-based assistance to Pennsylvania’s manufacturing sector.
Wolf said the Manufacturing PA programs will take advantage of the expertise of the Department of Community and Economic Development’s strategic partners, including the National Institutes of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership-funded Industrial Resource Centers, Pennsylvania’s colleges, universities, technical schools, and non-profit organizations.
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