Yesterday in Harrisburg, PA, the Pennsylvania Economic Developers Association (PEDA) heard a report on an excellent workforce training demonstration project now underway in Reading and Berks County, PA. This effort, known as “Careers in Two Years,” can and should be a national model for engaging young people–and their parents–in considering careers in growing middle skill jobs (i.e., technical occupations that require post high school training short of a four bachelor’s degree).
“Careers in Two Years” was started by the Greater Reading Economic Partnership (a long-time EntreWorks Consulting client) and is based on key alliances with Reading Area Community College and two local career-technical education centers (Berks and Reading-Muhlenberg CTCs). It is based on an important fact about the so-called technical worker shortage now seen across the US. It’s not primarily about youth being “not ready to work;” it also results from parents and kids not understanding the potential and the payoff of careers in growing fields like welding, machining, mechatronics, and information technology.
The project targets youth and parents with excellent information on the benefits of careers in these fields. For kids, the messages emphasize high pay and interesting work. For parents, they emphasize low (or zero) tuition costs and the ability of their kids to continue onto college if they so desire. “Careers in Two Years” is about public relations, and the project is focused on developing videos, TV commercials and other outreach tools to engage the community. You can access excellent promotional videos here.
The program is fairly new, but it’s succeeding beyond expectations so far. More and better prepared youth are enrolling and completing school, area schools are seeing more and better students, employers have a better trained workforce, and Berks County is becoming known as place with a talented and committed workforce. GREP has developed tools and packages so that other communities can replicate this model, and its expansion across Pennsylvania is now being considered. A further expansion across the US makes sense too.