PA House Subcommittee Takes Recommendations From LVEDC Testimony
By Colin McEvoy on December 13, 2016
A subcommittee of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives has taken each of the recommendations made by Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) President & CEO Don Cunningham during testimony he provided earlier this year.
Cunningham and Northampton Community College President Mark Erickson testified before a House subcommittee on Sept. 16 to discuss the LVEDC’s collaborative efforts with educational institutions and major employers to address workforce and talent supply issues.
The House Subcommittee on Technical Education and Career Readiness issued a 60-page report on Nov. 30, in which it suggested other regions and workforce development entities should emulate the efforts of the LVEDC Education and Talent Supply Council.
“By leveraging local partnerships to improve data collection and sharing, this clearinghouse can potentially help the region better link the supply and demand of talent across industry, as well as serve as a model for the regions across the state to build a cooperative effort across K-12 education, post-secondary education, business, and economic development organizations,” the report states.
The council brings together economic development and workforce professionals, K-12 education, vocational and technical schools, community colleges, and regional employers like Ocean Spray, Mack Trucks, and Olympus Corp. to better connect the Lehigh Valley’s labor supply and demand.
“This council is developing interest statewide as a potential model to be emulated for workforce and economic development,” Cunningham said. “The availability of trained workers is now the number one factor driving company locations, even more so than the total operating costs, and the regions that best solve the talent supply equations are the ones that will score the big wins in economic development competition.”
During their testimony before the House subcommittee, Cunningham and Erickson recommended funding be provided for the development of a pilot program for the commonwealth, helping allow other regions in the state to emulate the council’s program of matching labor supply with labor demands.
In their final report, the committee recommended that the General Assembly work with the Department of Labor and Industry assist workforce development boards and similar entities in developing such councils, and to incorporate a similar labor supply data clearinghouse in its statewide data system.
“One issue of constant concern raised in conversations (with local businesses) is workforce: The availability of enough skilled workers, with the right training, located within a reasonable proximity to the employer,” Cunningham said in his testimony. “We have heard this concern raised so often that we were compelled to better understand our workforce and what employers need, and we did so by forming this unprecedented partnership.”
The subcommittee report also took note of testimony Cunningham provided about the challenge created by a two-year lag in federally-reported workforce data, which limits their usefulness in providing a clear picture of the opportunities available or the skills needed for certain occupations.
The Education and Talent Supply Council was formed from a partnership between LVEDC and the Lehigh Valley Workforce Development Board (LVWDB), who together applied for and were awarded a Pennsylvania JOBS1st grant. It funded a Workforce and Economic Development Strategic Plan the two organizations commissioned from the New York City-based Oxford Economics.
That study took a deep dive into the Lehigh Valley’s labor market, and recommended LVEDC establish a partnership with the Lehigh Valley’s educational organizations to establish a labor supply data clearinghouse, which would engage higher education institutional research departments and help develop tools for K-12 and vo-tech to supply data on their graduates.
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