Pennsylvania Awarded Funding as Part of Major New National Workforce Initiative
Harrisburg, June 20—The Pennsylvania Fund for Workforce Solutions (PFWS), a partnership between the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and 10 Pennsylvania philanthropic organizations has been awarded grants totaling $500,000 from the National Fund for Workforce Solutions (NFWS), a new initiative devoted to creating opportunities for lower-skilled workers while simultaneously increasing economic competitiveness.
A $450,000 grant will be used to assist four regions—Erie, South Central Pennsylvania, Southwest Pennsylvania, and Southeast Pennsylvania— implement and expand strategic workforce initiatives that help low-skilled workers achieve family sustaining careers in critical shortage occupations within targeted industries. The PFWS was awarded an additional $50,000 to explore ways for the state of Pennsylvania to finance and sustain workforce initiatives for the long term on a scale large enough to make a real difference in opportunities for workers and profitability for employers.
Philanthropic partners include the Erie Community Foundation, The Foundation for Enhancing Communities, the Capital Region United Way, the United Way of Southeast Pennsylvania, the Knight Foundation, the Pittsburgh Foundation, the Heinz Endowments, R.K. Mellon, and the American Eagle Foundation. The purpose of each regional collaborative is to meet the needs of employers having trouble finding qualified workers and to prepare low-skilled workers to move into jobs that pay a family-supporting wage.
Because of the success of the commonwealth’s Industry Partnerships created with funds from the state’s comprehensive workforce reform (Job Ready PA), Pennsylvania is the only NFWS grantee in the nation to receive funds to build workforce funding collaborative across different regions within a state. “We are pleased to be the only large state selected to partner with the National Fund for Workforce Solutions,” said Sandi Vito, Pennsylvania Acting Secretary of Labor. “We have been hard at work in Pennsylvania creating systems that best prepare people for the workplace. This grant from leading national foundations validates that we are on the right track and will allow us to expand our reach significantly.”
To qualify for support from the NFWS, Pennsylvania had to pool substantial state and local financial resources and craft industry-specific workforce efforts that meet the needs of both workers and employers in job sectors with skill shortages. By customizing training and other services that meet employers’ needs for entry-level workers, all NFWS-supported projects seek to create opportunities for workers to move into jobs and careers that provide family-supporting wages and benefits.
These workforce partnerships are critically needed because the nation faces a shortage of well-prepared workers. In particular, the number of workers with two-year degrees and skill certificates will fall far short of the economy’s needs. Such a shortage of skilled workers will constrain the nation’s economic growth. NFWS efforts address the roots of poverty among low-income workers—the lack of pathways to the middle class in today’s economy—and also create industry-linked learning systems that allow businesses to thrive.
“Employers in our community are struggling to find well-trained workers to take some jobs, while many low-wage workers lack the skills or training they need to become financially secure,” said Michael Batchelor of the Erie Community Foundation. “We have developed a great partnership to address both of these pressing needs in Erie.”
The National Fund for Workforce Solutions was created by the Annie E. Casey, Ford and Hitachi Foundations, the U.S. Labor Department and other key supporters. It has made it a goal to raise $50 million to strengthen and expand effective workforce initiatives around the country.
“Pennsylvania is THE national leader in workforce development,” said Bob Giloth of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a key funder of the NFWS. “What this grant does is begin a systematic effort to link projects that benefit low-income workers with partnerships of local employers in key industries that the state has invested in across the Commonwealth. If Pennsylvania can make this approach work statewide in ways that deliver for business, low-income families, and communities, it will become a model for the nation.”