Bucks County wins $1.7M workforce development grant
By James O’Malley
Bucks County Courier Times
The grant is aimed at training those forced out of jobs for new careers.
A $1.7 million federal grant awarded to the Bucks County Workforce Development Board will help close the “skills gap” keeping dislocated workers unemployed, say officials.
“This is big money,” said county Commissioner Chairman Robert Loughery. “And this is going to do a lot of good to help us get the employers the employees that they need, and more importantly get the employees the skills that they need to work family-sustaining jobs.”
Announced Wednesday at the PA CareerLink office in Bristol Township and dubbed the Trade and Economic Transition Dislocated Worker grant, the award is aimed at aiding those laid off or otherwise unemployed by no fault of their own.
The county was one of only two in Pennsylvania to receive the grant this year through the U.S. Department of Labor, said U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-8th, of Middletown, who presented the award in the form of an oversized check.
According to Fitzpatrick, the so-called skills gap — or the difference in skills workers possess versus the skills they need — is one of the primary barriers to employment, and getting people back to work has a snowball effect in improving lives.
“Forget about the economic benefits, the intrinsic value is so important to the mentality which leads to other successes,” he said.
John Flanagan, director of the county workforce development board, said the money will be put to use training as many as 200 workers over two years in skills like advanced manufacturing, information technology and metalworking.
He said many areas of the job market currently have more openings than those qualified to fill them, and pointed to the rapidly shrinking retail industry as a possible source for dislocated workers to be retrained.
But the money won’t just go toward education. Funds will also be used to supply what he called “supportive services,” Flanagan said, including childcare and transportation.
“We would like to eliminate any barrier that anybody has to going to work on a day-to-day basis,” Flanagan said.
Bucks County Community College will take the lead in administering the training, said college president Stephanie Shanblatt.
She said the college sees itself as a “full partner” in the county’s economic development, with a responsibility to see that the grant money is well spent.
“Our role is to actualize this,” Shanblatt said. “Whether it’s short-term training or longer-term training ... we can help folks wherever they’d like to go.”
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