Bucks County Herald

Bucks County Community College, work force center, strike deal

Federal grant enables skills training

STUART LEE FRIEDMAN

Describing what he called the “A Team,” Bucks County Commissioner Robert Lougherty praised the plans to develop and construct the Bucks County Center for Economic and Workforce Development at Bucks County Community College on the Gene and Marlene Epstein Campus.

The announcement was formally made at the College on Oct. 17.

Lougherty was joined by Bucks County Commissioners Charles Martin and Diane Ellis-Marseglia, Bucks County Industrial Development Authority Chair Mary K. Smithson, Bucks County Workforce Development Board Chair Dennis Jones and Bucks County Community College President Stephanie Shanblatt.

The team Lougherty referred to consists of the college, the Workforce Development Board and the business community, with a goal to facilitate effective skill-matched recruitment opportunities for businesses and skilled workforce. The programs will be custom tailored to the stated needs of participating businesses.

A recent $1.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor will help realize the goal of building the platform. Stating that “the first principle in economic development is to keep every job and every business,” Lougherty maintained that the partnership will address the needs of businesses to preserve both. Bucks County was one of only two of the 67 Pennsylvania counties to receive such a grant.

Smithson spoke to the project as organizing workforce development resources to promote business growth. She stated that the platform will showcase a public awareness that is “readily approachable, accessible, responsive, and receptive” to the needs of local business.

U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick was a surprise guest at the event. He told the audience that 7.1 million unfilled jobs existed in the country. “We’ve gone from an economy that’s been asking ‘Where are the jobs?’ to an economy that is asking ‘Where are the workers?’”

Fitzpatrick added that the two main reasons jobs remain unfilled are failed drug tests and mismatched skill sets. He placed some of the blame for the latter on high schools that measure success by graduating students to four-year colleges and universities rather than providing alternative vocational pathways.

Fitzpatrick said that a job “trickles down” to less crime, less drug abuse and other positive effects. He added that along with skills, many jobs also require transportation and child care, and those are also part of the “economic puzzle.”




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