Sen. Bob Casey
In recent weeks, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa, has proposed a raft of legislation aimed at job creation across a variety of economic sectors. Not surprisingly, his largest budget proposal calls for additional funding to address the state’s deteriorating roads and bridges.
His proposal not only targets those deficiencies, but also supports the TIGER program that provides funding across the transportation sector, from mass transit to trucking to rail projects.
On a related note, Casey is also pushing legislation that would provide funding to the PA Turnpike Commission to place compressed natural gas stations along the road, making use of the newly abundant fuel source more available.
One day later, Casey introduced an amendment to the Workforce Reinvestment Act he said would that address the growing skills gap, and would help train workers in those needed professions, targeting not only industry specific technical training, but skills ranging from welding to accounting that translate across multiple economic sectors.
“This common-sense, bipartisan proposal has the backing of business and workers because by closing the skills gap, everybody wins,” he said.
Casey’s initiatives coincide with the PA Department of Labor’s release of its 2013 High Priority Occupation list, which is used to determine the availability of funding for workforce development, training and education throughout the state. It has also deleted several job categories from its list.
Three Rivers Workforce Development Board has posted both lists on its website, along with the annual available jobs each category, what they pay on average, and what level of education or training is needed to attain them.
For instance, last year in Pittsburgh there were 729 listings for “healthcare professionals” requiring only an associates degree that paid an average of $61,000. There were also 197 “Healthcare Support “ job openings paying much less, an average of just over $26,000, but they required only some post-secondary and on-the-job training, as did the 63 “Office and administrative support” jobs paying an average of $32,000.
There were also multiple listings requiring only work experience. Among them were 218 “office and administrative support jobs, averaging $55,000; 97 “food service” jobs, averaging $37,000; and 41 “maintenance/repair” jobs averaging $64,000.
For the kind of “construction/extraction” jobs prevalent in the energy sector 57 requiring work experience were listed at an average of $68,000. In that same field, those calling for some specific and on-the-job training—those Casey is targeting, there were 121 listings averaging $52,000.
At the other end of the scale, the 38 job categories being cut from the High Priority Occupation list cover several sectors also including the arts, healthcare, legal and technical fields. This does not mean there are not jobs for set designers, audio visual technicians, court reporters or mechanical drafters, it just means the need to fill these jobs is not as great, and that job-training funds will be allocated elsewhere.
Reggie Overton, with the Community College of Allegheny County’s Workforce Development Division said the college and its industry and business partners always review the HPO list to see if the state’s evaluation matches theirs. Sometimes, it does not.
“We always work to confirm that jobs removed form the list are not priorities,” he said. “Some of those removed this year we think should remain and we are petitioning the state to ask that they do.”
To see the HPO and job availability lists, visit the www.trwib.org.
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