Think big, then think small. Think future, then build up from what already works. Most of all, think collaboration.
The thinking big part comes from the core idea of Central PA Works! Business leaders, educators and officials from 10 Pennsylvania counties came together last month to begin seeking solutions to the common problem of workforce development. By encompassing such a wide area, they hope to get more bang for their bucks as well as extend their marketing impact when wooing companies to relocate or encouraging them to expand.
The small? The regional workforce collaborative recognizes it's not enough to create jobs or even to train workers in the hard skills they need to fill them — though both, obviously, are of paramount importance.
Right out of the gate, Central PA Works! began talking about reaching out to organizations that deal with often-unaddressed challenges many individuals face when it comes to holding down a job. Those include everything from not having reliable transportation or child care to language barriers or, in the case of young people preparing to enter the workforce, understanding that many blue-collar fields offer good wages and long-term careers.
That's the kind of thinking — on the macro- and micro-levels — most likely to bring success to this endeavor.
The collaboration is starting from a sweeter spot than most groups trying to bolster employment in their regions. The latest statewide numbers put unemployment at 7.8 percent; that number was 6.23 percent across the 10 counties of Adams, Berks, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Juniata, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry and York. Instead of trying to scramble out of a hole, the region can look more toward the future more hopefully.
It also brings new faces to the table while including the existing workforce investment boards in the region, thus benefiting their expertise and experience. And, we're pleased to note, Central PA Works! is ahead of the curve in Pennsylvania. While the Pennsylvania Fund for Workforce Solution, a part of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, wants to organize such collaboratives across the state, similar efforts have gotten underway only in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh so far. Central PA Works! hopes to be a model for initiatives elsewhere.
Based on what we've seen so far, Central PA Works! is thinking about the right issues in the right way. And we think that will be good for the region it aims to serve.