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Editorial: On a PATH to better workforce development

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Gov. Tom Corbett is firmly rooted in the camp that believes government should learn from business. When it comes to dealing with unemployment in the commonwealth, it looks like he and Labor Secretary Julia Hearthway are taking a step in the right direction.

They've dubbed their idea PATH, or PA Talent Hub. Partnering with four large businesses in western Pennsylvania, the state will study how they recruit and hire. By identifying best practices at companies with track records of recruiting the workers who fit their needs, the state will see what can be applied to the current system run through CareerLink and establish workforce programs based on those insights.

After this pilot program is complete, state officials say, they plan to collaborate with companies across the state in a similar manner by the end of the year.

Small businesses that can't afford their own full-time HR and recruitment arms should benefit most from what the PATH effort brings to bear on the job-matching conundrum.

PATH could not only help to solve the current problem of matching the state's 480,000 job seekers with existing openings, it could help long term by steering workers toward the right careers.

That's how it's done in business, after all. Employers don't look at the available workforce and ask themselves how they can fit people into their organizations; they look at the jobs to be done and seek the right workers to do them.

The present system focuses almost entirely on what job seekers want, or think they want. That might explain why so many jobs go unfilled — and why Pennsylvania's unemployment rate isn't declining as fast as anyone would like.

This isn't the first innovation the Department of Labor and Industry has introduced under Hearthway's leadership. Taking advantage of technology that's becoming more common every day, L&I last year introduced JobGateway. It uses the Internet, mobile devices and social media to assist job seekers. Users can extend their job search into an all-hours, take-it-anywhere endeavor.

That's a long way from the days when visits had to be made in person at a CareerLink site.

It's unfortunate the governor's official announcement of PATH in Washington County last week got so little attention outside the business press. While we're all inured to photo ops and feel-good staged "news" events, the introduction of PATH is significant.

A lot has been said in this administration about public/private partnerships. Here's a good example of what can be done simply by reaching out.

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