Officials target workforce development

Officials at the North Central Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission [NCPRPDC] held a quarterly full board meeting Wednesday afternoon, with workforce development dominating the conversation.Key North Central officials were joined by U.S. Congressman Glenn 'GT' Thompson (R-5) via teleconference as the legislator highlighted H.R. 4297, the Workforce Investment Improvement Act of 2012."The bill actually consolidates three bills-- one of which I'm an original co-sponsor on with [Howard P.] "Buck" McKeon, former chairman of the education workforce committee-- then two additional bills as well," Thompson said. "They're solid bills and were consolidated into the H.R. 4297 Workforce Investment Improvement Act of 2012. Essentially, hitting the high points, it's a bill that we had a hearing on a week or so ago, and it's something I'm very pleased with because it's moving in the right direction. "The Senate is not really engaging in anything-- sometimes it's very little-- but I would hope that we could perhaps move this in September."The proposal would consolidate ineffective and redundant programs."The proposal consolidates 27 federally-funded job training and employment programs, frankly into one flexible workforce investment fund," Thompson said. "The goal is to strengthen an earlier proposal that we had and the idea of this is to empower state governors to consolidate programs and services at the state level. "It's about returning control to the local level and the state level, versus not so much the cookie-cutter coming out of Washington. It does eliminate some arbitrary roadblocks that prevent workers from accessing job training immediately."The legislation would also eliminate 19 mandates affecting who can serve on the board."[The legislation] empowers local officials to appoint the remaining members," Thompson said. "It puts a strong influence on job creators and it does require that two-thirds of the workforce board members be employers. "It really tries to put an emphasis back on that connection with job creators so that we're training people while the needs and opportunities are out there."For Thompson, the No. 1 asset of any business or any industry is "not the location or the business plan or even the marketing plan, it's the qualified and trained workforce.""Without that we'll lose businesses," Thompson said. "They will move to where they can find that workforce and I'd be very concerned if we don't make these kind of changes. "In this generation, we could see a lot of jobs go offshore for no other reason other than, frankly, to find warm bodies and workforce. It does empower employers and promote accountability."One main focus of the legislation is to expand decision-making at the local level through the composition of a workforce investment board."The idea is to provide greater representation and influence for local business representatives, education officials and community groups who are currently unable to connect with or access services through local boards," Thompson said. "It calls for local workforce boards to readily conduct analysis of the area workforce needs, including economic conditions, the knowledge and skills of the workers while building an inventory, and certainly an analysis of the existing workforce development activity. "The idea is that the information will enhance support services for local workers and employers."Pick up a copy of the Thursday, April 26, 2012 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.