Industry Partnerships: A Winning Proposition for Businesses & Workers

Pennsylvania is known nationally for its leadership in connecting workforce training to the skill needs of key industries, creating workers with the capabilities needed for high productivity, healthy profits, and good wages.

Our state’s Industry Partnership (IP) training program has become a model for other states and has even helped shape a new federal workforce law that will be implemented in the coming months. Through the simple step of bringing businesses within an industry together, over 100,000 participants have been trained since 2005.

IPs are a win-win-win for our state. They grow regional economies, boost the bottom lines of businesses, and help workers find jobs or take their careers to the next level. Legislators recognized IPs’ high return on investment in 2011 when they unanimously voted to put the program into a statute that was signed by the Governor.

But Pennsylvania risks losing ground if we allow this successful economic development strategy to wither on the vine. That’s why restoring adequate funding for IPs is a vital step to building IPs into a critical competitive advantage for the state. 

IPs can help solve a major economic challenge facing Pennsylvania—the middle-skill gap. Middle-skill jobs, which require education beyond high school but not a four-year degree, account for 55 percent of Pennsylvania employment. But only 44 percent of the state’s workers are trained to the middle-skill level. And right now, industries with good jobs in our state are unable to find enough sufficiently trained workers to fill these jobs.

Pennsylvania needs to invest in what works in order to close the skills gap, and IPs provide a proven, bipartisan path forward. Participating businesses report that networking and training through IPs helped them significantly increase their productivity. IPs also give our career and technical educators, community colleges, and other trainers real intelligence on industry needs.

The Manufacturing Alliance of Bucks & Montgomery Counties has risen to the occasion by bringing manufacturers, educators and service providers to the table to work together and solve problems currently facing manufacturing in our region. The Manufacturing Alliance has been able to bridge the gap that exists between industry and education by facilitating the collaboration between regional manufacturers, community colleges and technical high schools.

Issues such as skills gaps, lack of qualified workers, apprenticeships and manufacturing perceptions have all been the topics of meetings and forums held over the past year and a half.  Forty, fifty and even as many as seventy members have attended meeting with one thing in mind, strengthening manufacturing in our communities. Through information sessions, student/family activity days and facility tours manufacturing has seen a resurgence in the public’s eye and the Manufacturing Alliance of Bucks & Montgomery Counties is at the forefront.

I’ve witnessed IPs deliver results firsthand, and I want more businesses and workers in our state to do the same.

Unfortunately, state funding for IPs has slipped below $2 million in recent years, and we are in very real danger of losing out on many of the gains we’ve made. Fewer businesses are being trained through IPs and – even more important – less networking, peer learning, and coordination are taking place to improve our overall training and career system.

But this new session of the General Assembly presents a real opportunity to turn things around. Our representatives in Harrisburg should do everything they can to strengthen Pennsylvania’s Industry Partnership strategy so that it once again becomes a source of sustainable competitive advantage. As it undergoes its annual budget and appropriations process, I urge members of the General Assembly to support this smart, high-return investment in public-private cooperation by robustly funding the Industry Partnership program. Doing so would be a smart investment in our economy and the Bucks & Montgomery County region and it would benefit workers and businesses alike.

Anthony Newberry, Business and Industry Specialist, Bucks County Workforce Investment Board. PA CareerLink® Bucks County, 1260 Veterans Highway, Bristol, PA, 19007, P: 215-874-2800 ext. 107, E: .