EXETER — With a low unemployment rate, aging workforce, labor shortage and skills gap crisis, FNCB Bank senior vice president and human resources officer Dawn Gronski said it is difficult finding qualified candidates for management positions.
Gronski is happy about a new apprenticeship program that Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry Deputy Secretary for Workforce Development Eileen Cipriani announced Friday at a breakfast sponsored by the Greater Pittston Chamber of Commerce in Exeter.
Through the program, Cipriani said apprentices will learn supervisory skills necessary to manage other employees.
FNCB Bank and McDonald’s are the first two businesses that will participate in the program.
Apprentices will take classes at Luzerne County Community College and receive hands-on training, Gronski said.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to go ahead and increase our talent within our organization to help some of our current staff to have a bright future and to help move them into management positions,” Gronski said. “It will help them get them the skills they need in order to be a supervisor, a manager or a branch manager.”
Pat Stella and her son Rich Corbin, who own nine McDonald’s restaurants in Northeast Pennsylvania, also are pleased with the program.
Corbin said apprentices could apply “what they learn in the classroom into our restaurants and hopefully move up in our organization.”
“For us, we could have a long-term employee through this,” Stella said. “Just the fact that we are helping somebody learn these skills is just rewarding in itself.”
Cipriani told about 160 people who attended the breakfast Friday at St. Barbara Parish Center that when she talks to business owners throughout the state, they tell her they cannot find skilled workers to grow their businesses.
“Employers face many challenges finding workers they need,” she said. “Pennsylvania’s workforce is aging. Baby boomers are retiring from the workforce.”
Coupled with a historic low unemployment rate, Cipriani said, “It’s not surprising to learn that nearly two-thirds of businesses in the state report they are having trouble attracting qualified applicants to fill their open jobs.”
She said the new program will provide apprentices with the skills training necessary to manage employees and develop “a talent pool of highly skilled workers for area businesses.”
Apprenticeships are part of Gov. Tom Wolf’s PAsmart initiative. Wolf secured $70 million for PAsmart over two years, including $40 million for science and technology education and $30 million for apprenticeships and job training programs.
The Greater Pittston Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring the new apprenticeship program and partnering with LCCC. The chamber’s goal is to partner with four to six employers and register 10 to 15 apprentices by early next year, Cipriani said.
Greater Pittston Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Michelle Mikitish said it’s exciting to be able to offer the apprenticeship program to members especially as the chamber will celebrate its 100th year of service next year.
“The Pittston Chamber has a strong history of industrial park development and attracting employers into our business community,” Mikitish said. “This apprenticeship program is a continuation of our legacy of putting people to work.”
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