Senate Democrats Seek to Augment ‘PA Works Now’ Plan
Day Care, Adult Care, Job Training, School-to-Work Transition, and Green Jobs are Targeted
HARRISBURG, October 18, 2011 – – Today members of the Senate Democratic caucus unveiled legislation to be introduced this week to supplement the “PA Works Now” job creation plan, which has become the centerpiece of their agenda for the fall session. Senate Democrats will continue to offer solutions to the problems that prevent Pennsylvanians from finding and maintaining jobs in hopes the dialogue in the Capitol will begin to center on this pressing issue.
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“We can’t drag our feet when it comes to this. Families are struggling, and with each day that goes by they lose hope in our ability to help them,” said Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-Lehigh/Monroe/Northampton), Senate Democratic Policy chair. “We visited a number of communities across the state and gathered valuable – and in many cases very moving – feedback. This is the number one issue on people’s minds. We need to keep talking until we make it the number one priority on the minds of those serving in Harrisburg.”
The plan focuses on 6 key areas:
This measure would provide tax incentives to small businesses that help employees cover the costs of child care and adult day care. Working families should not be constrained because they can’t find day care services. It’s not good for their quality of life. And it’s not helpful to our economy.
Sen. Judy Schwank is the prime sponsor of this legislation. “Many of us know all too well that day care is expensive, and many families have to weigh the cost of day care verses their weekly paycheck,” said Schwank (D-Berks). “For others, there is no choice. They have to work, and the only way they can work is if they have child care or adult day care and know their loved ones are safe while they earn a day’s pay.”
Improve School-to-Work Transition
Successful careers in today’s knowledge based economy require most students to pursue some post secondary training. However, many of these experiences do not require a four-year baccalaureate degree. Community colleges, technical colleges, apprenticeship programs, direct employer sponsored programs, and the military services all have important roles in providing these education and training experiences. Unfortunately, many students fail to receive the necessary career advice and training in the final years of their high school education to properly transition into these training and education opportunities following their high school graduation.
Boscola is the prime sponsor of legislation that would require every local school district to develop an individual education plan to ensure that every student’s high school experience envisions and prepares them for a career path. “We need to do everything in our power to get kids on the right track early. Many don’t know all of the options available to them until they have already pursued another path,” said Boscola. “In this economy there isn’t time for do-overs. This legislation would give them the tools and information they need to make these decisions which may ultimately impact their entire lives.”
Youth Summer Job Program
Summer employment programs can provide a valuable public service while giving youth valuable training and career experience. This measure would focus exclusively on youth summer employment opportunities at state parks and municipal recreational facilities throughout the commonwealth. The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) would directly administer jobs created at state parks, while local governments could apply to DCNR to receive grants, not to exceed $2,500 per job, for work experiences at local recreational facilities. An estimated 10,000 jobs could be supported annually through a $25 million transfer from the Oil and Gas Fund.
Sen. Shirley Kitchen is introducing the legislation this week. “This is a win-win situation,” said Kitchen (D-Philadelphia). “Not only will youth learn valuable job skills and gain work experience, but our state parks and other recreational areas, which were hit particularly hard by last spring’s budget battle and the harsh cuts that resulted, will benefit too.”
PA Training Program for Marcellus Shale Drilling Operations
Marcellus Shale drilling has been a major economic boost for many areas throughout our state. Unfortunately, significant numbers of currently employed workers at these job sites continue to be people from outside of Pennsylvania. When we enact a drilling fee on Marcellus Shale operators later this fall, an annual set-aside of $5 million should fund specialized training programs, administered through local organized labor groups, to give Pennsylvanians the necessary skill sets to fill these jobs. A portion of these funds should be earmarked specifically to develop and staff a call center, with preference for the disabled to fill these jobs. The unemployment rate among the disabled is nearly 50 percent higher than for the rest of the workforce.
Sen. Christine Tartaglione is the prime sponsor of this measure. “My bill would set aside a portion of the revenue from a Marcellus Shale extraction tax to develop specialized training programs for jobs in the gas industry. The recent cuts to higher education have made college less likely for thousands of people. With a dedicated training program geared toward the various parts of the extraction, storage and transport of natural gas, we can put Pennsylvanians back to work,” said Tartaglione (D-Philadelphia). “While we push for specialized training for jobs in the gas industry, we will also push to make sure that this effort involves every Pennsylvanian who wants to work. My bill calls for development and staffing of a call center to connect willing workers with the right training program and for that call center to be staffed by people with disabilities.”
Incentives to Grow Women & Minority Owned Businesses
We are making a renewed push to encourage the growth of women, minority, or veteran-owned, or other disadvantaged small businesses by providing an array of incentives. Sen. LeAnna Washington’s Senate Bill 696, which was introduced as part of our original PA Works package, calls for a statewide bonding guarantee program, mentor-protégée support, a 10 percent reserve program for state contracts and other targets and incentives to increase employment opportunities for these businesses.
“Women, minority, and veteran-owned businesses all have bring something different to the table that you might not see every day in every business,” said Washington (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery). “Women have firsthand knowledge of some of the barriers to pursuing a career and the pull of other responsibilities. Minority and veteran business owners may be a bit more sensitive to the difficulties in finding work because of the hurdles and high unemployment statistics they face.”
Green Jobs Employment & Training Program
Sen. Kitchen’s Senate Bill 687, which was also introduced as part of our original PA Works package, creates the Green Work Force Training Program. The program would provide $5 million annually for each of the next three fiscal years to the Department of Labor and Industry to provide grants to vocational technical schools, community colleges, public or private higher education institutions, labor organizations, or privately licensed schools. The grants would be used to develop training programs for careers in emerging renewable energy or energy efficiency.
“If we are going to get out of this economic slump and compete in a national and global economy, a well-trained workforce is essential,” said Kitchen. “One of the areas that has great potential for our economic outlook is the green jobs sector. It’s an emerging industry that we must invest in if we want to move Pennsylvania forward.”
Dr. Thomas Rushton, the director of the Monroe Career & Technical Institute, also shared his firsthand experiences with school-to-work transition and gave input on how a program like the one introduced by Sen. Boscola would benefit the students he deals with in Monroe County.
PennEnvironment Director David Masur participated and shared information about the potential impact of Senate Bill 687 and the Green Workforce Training Program.
For more information on the PA Works Now program go to http://www.pasenate.com.