Why the Budget Matters: No. 3 — Workforce Development Funding

Stephen Herzenberg |

Gov. Wolf would restore $10 million in funds for industry partnerships.

The Republican budget would provide only $1.67 million for industry partnerships, undercutting their ability to help employers struggling to find skilled workers.

When manufacturing companies seek to expand in the Philadelphia region, they increasingly look to partner with the Southeast Regional Workforce Development Partnership. That partnership brings together 50 companies in manufacturing, rotorcraft and related industries. Since 2008, the partnership has conducted more than 2,300 classes to train employees at member companies in manufacturing jobs where wages typically range from $19 to $30 per hour.

In the Lehigh Valley, the Diversified Manufacturing Industry Partnership brings together more than 130 manufacturing and supply chain companies that are global and household names: Just Born, Kraft Foods, Nestle Waters North America, Samuel Adams PA Brewery, Lutron Electronics, Crayola … and many, many more. Lehigh Valley Chamber representative Michelle Griffin Young says that “we have seen firsthand how this public-private partnership increases the Lehigh Valley’s competitiveness.” Partnership coordinators note that “we’ve had employers come for eight years and never ask for a dollar; the draw is the peer-to-peer learning and the networking.”

In industry after industry and region after region, Pennsylvania has been THE national leader in implementing a simple, low-cost, high return-on-investment idea. You bring employers with overlapping skill needs together. Those businesses and state government share the cost of designing and delivering training that makes workers more productive and companies more profitable and competitive. Then you stand back and watch the magic happen—there’s just no better learning environment than bringing together managers that wrestle each day with the same organizational and human resource challenges. Over the past decade, more than 100,000 participants have been trained with industry partnership funds.

Former Gov. Schweiker helped catalyze Pennsylvania’s national-model workforce strategy, and the legislature expanded it under former Gov. Rendell. Former Gov. Corbett signed a bill putting the program into statute in 2011 with unanimous support from both chambers of the General Assembly. How often does that happen?

Business organizations have championed industry partnerships, including regional associations of manufacturers and technology businesses, local chambers and statewide associations of Pennsylvania’s biggest businesses. This year, more than 400 workforce stakeholders, most of them business people from every part of the state, signed a statement endorsing Gov. Wolf’s proposed $10 million increase in funding for industry partnerships.

Funding cuts of more than 90 percent that began under former Gov. Rendell now threaten the resilience and positive potential of this program. Pennsylvania’s ability to turn its industry partnership infrastructure into a source of enduring competitive advantage hangs in the balance. Gov. Wolf’s budget would seize this opportunity, investing a little to get back a lot. The Republican budget would not.

Members of the media who want contact information for industry partnerships in their part of the state or business people active in those partnerships should contact Ellen Lyon at 717-255-7156 or lyon@pennbpc.org.