Workforce Development: Closing the Skills Gap
WASHINGTON—Today, Members of the House Committee on Small Business attended a field hearing in Newportville, Pennsylvania to hear from stakeholders about how federal programs help or hinder workforce development initiatives aimed at supporting small business.
“Even in this time of economic growth, many small businesses across numerous industries are struggling to find qualified workers. If left unaddressed, this ‘skills gap’ will not only impact businesses and workers, but lead to significant economic spillovers throughout the nation,” said Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA). “We’re all called to address this issue: elected officials and educators, local businesses and labor organizations. Today’s hearing is the first step in understanding the causes of the ‘skills gap’ and finding areas for potential improvement within our existing workforce development programs in all sectors.”
Closing the Gap
Historically, during periods of economic growth, small businesses struggle to compete with their larger counterparts in attracting and hiring qualified candidates. Along with that, as baby boomers start to retire, certain industries like manufacturing also finds itself hard-pressed to find a steady labor force. The lack of qualified applicants disproportionately affects small businesses and skilled trade industries.
“This is the message the PA Chamber has attempted to deliver to our members and spread to employers throughout the Commonwealth: the business community must take the lead in workforce development and addressing the skills gap,” said Alex Halper, Director of Government Affairs with the PA Chamber in Harrisburg, PA. “We can support smart public policy and encourage educational institutions and members of the public to be close, constructive partners – but ultimately it is incumbent on Pennsylvania employers to make the commitment and do the work necessary to ensure they have a qualified workforce today and in the future.”
“One of my biggest concerns is the level of proficiency in math and readings our students are graduating with. In some cases, even graduates of career and technical education (CTE) schools are at a sixth or seventh grade level for both reading and math,” said Patrick Eiding, President of the Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO, in Philadelphia, PA. “We need more engagement and commitment from employers both large and small so that we can perform the special training needed to be their employees such as internships and apprenticeships. Where we have meaningful collaboration, we create life-sustaining jobs.”
“The Center for Workforce Development also works closely with businesses to help mitigate the shortage of skilled workers in manufacturing. Working in partnership with the County of Bucks, the Bucks County Workforce Development Board and PA CareerLinkTM, the college has developed and implemented preapprenticeship programs designed to upskill and retrain un-and underemployed individuals to learn new skills to fill the ever growing gap for well trained entry level employees for manufacturing jobs,” stated Susan Herring, Interim Executive Director of the Center for Workforce Development at Bucks County Community College in Newtown, PA. “As retirements loom large for businesses, more well-trained entry level employees will be necessary to feed to manufacturing businesses to keep them thriving in our local economy.”
The skills gap, if left unaddressed, will continue to hinder economic growth and prevent small businesses from being able to compete with larger corporations for qualified employees.
Click here for full testimony.