An Ally to Industry in Bridging the Skills Gap
Fall 2017 Catalyst
November 21, 2017
The skills gap is a multifaceted issue and a growing threat to employers’ competitiveness and financial well-being. The U.S. Department of Labor emphasizes that more jobs are open now — 6.2 million in June — than at any time since it began tracking this data in 2000.
The gap, that shortfall between a current or potential worker’s abilities and the proficiency required for the position, threatens to widen for employers struggling to fill vacancies with qualified personnel.
The problem is compounded when manufacturers recognize that deficiencies exist with their current workforce, but they lack the time and resources to definitively, efficiently and affordably identify and remediate those needs.
Pennsylvania College of Technology, a Williamsport-based national leader in applied technology education and workforce development, stands ready to help industries through a multi-pronged approach to identify and correct skill shortages that jeopardize productivity on the factory floor.
The college’s Workforce Development & Continuing Education department helps industries assess any concerns and retrain their existing labor force on the newest technologies by assisting them in understanding the areas where they should target their training resources.
The Development Needs Assessment (DNA) for Business tool is benefiting 13 companies in a grant-funded pilot program. And just as the DNA molecule carries the genetic instructions inherent for healthy, living organisms, the college’s DNA for Business program gives business clients the tools to be productive and profitable enterprises.
Using a customized web-based survey designed to comprehensively analyze competencies known to be key contributors to business success, the program identifies critical opportunities for improvement, recommends specific training to smooth out the flaws and provides the means to track program effectiveness thereafter.
“If you ask an employee to evaluate his or her own performance, you’ll get a very subjective result,” said Shannon Munro, Penn College’s vice president for workforce development. “But if you ask them to assess the companywide challenges, as this tool does, it produces a more honest and accurate picture of a company’s strengths and areas of opportunity.”
Upon completion of that intensive data-gathering, a fully customized report is produced that includes analytics and recommendations for addressing any areas of concern identified in the process.
The school’s Workforce Development and Continuing Eduacation department also meets the increasing demand for a highly skilled workforce through comprehensive apprenticeship programs that combine business involvement, on-the-job training, technical instruction, incentives and nationally recognized industry credentials.
The department recently celebrated its first year of Mechatronics Apprenticeship training, in which three Bloomsburg area companies took part in programming that meets Pennsylvania Department of Labor requirements for competency-based classroom instruction.
“We’re constantly striving to develop innovative ways to meet the skills-development needs of companies,” Munro said. “Manufacturers need to control cost, minimize work disruption, decrease missed time away from the floor, and yet achieve high levels of learning and skills improvement. This program achieves all of those goals.”
Another solution is recruitment of entry-level talent from Penn College’s diverse curricular portfolio, more than 100 academic majors that prepare today’s graduates for the jobs of tomorrow.
During an illustrious 103-year history, the college and its predecessor institutions have neither outgrown nor overlooked the mission of providing students the proper tools with which to build rewarding careers in their chosen fields.
And it’s all accomplished with continual and credible input from business and industry.
Employers are represented on advisory committees that act as recommending bodies to faculty and administration, in-field professionals who serve as partners in keeping Penn College’s instructional offerings relevant and responsive.
They also have front-row booths at twice-yearly Career Fairs, looking face-to-face into the pipeline of impressive women and men earning “degrees that work.”
“In my 10 years of managing the Career Fair, the message from employers hasn’t changed. They need graduates with real-world technical skills,” said Erin S. Shultz, Penn College’s coordinator of career development. “Even when the economy dips, our students remain in demand, as we offer recession-proof technology majors.”
With the current favorable job market, Shultz said she wasn’t surprised that the Spring Career Fair attracted a record number of employers — including 17 Fortune 500 companies.
For more information on workforce development at Penn College, which also features internationally recognized training through the Plastics Innovation & Resource Center, visit www.pct.edu/wdce or call 570.327.4775.