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Tec Centro Blazing New Trail for Workforce Training in Pennsylvania

by Violet Emory, Executive Director of Tec Centro Berks

In recognition of National Skilled Trades Day (May 1), the growing Tec Centro Workforce Network is reshaping workforce training across the region and helping to solve a multigenerational issue that has long impacted our businesses and communities.

Now more than ever, accessible and affordable workforce training is the cornerstone of addressing poverty, unemployment, and underemployment in our communities. With May 1 being National Skilled Trades Day, it’s a great reminder to recognize the critical need for creating more opportunities for skilled training, especially in Pennsylvania’s third-class cities.

According to the U.S. Census, Black and Hispanic populations are growing significantly across the Central Pennsylvania region. Between 2010 and 2020, Dauphin County saw a 66% increase in Hispanic and a 5% increase in Black populations, followed by Lebanon with 63% and 12%, York with 61% and 15%, Berks with 42% and 9%, and Lancaster with 36% and 17%, respectively. Collectively, this accounts for hundreds of thousands of people who also account for a disproportionately high level of unemployment and underemployment, most commonly linked to a lack of education and skilled training.

In Pennsylvania, more than a quarter of both Hispanics and Blacks are living in poverty, with 11.9% of Hispanics and 13.7% of Blacks unemployed. And those numbers are even higher in counties with third-class cities. Compare this to the 5.4% unemployment rate for whites. The problem is amplified by the fact that 28.35% of Hispanics and 13.7% of Blacks in Pennsylvania don’t have a high school diploma, making it even more difficult to obtain family-sustaining jobs that offer livable wages and related benefits.

The Tec Centro Workforce Network is making strides in addressing this issue head-on. Founded in 2023, it already has established locations in Berks, Lancaster (home to two centers), Lebanon, and York Counties, with another soon to be added to Dauphin. Each of the six locations is a self-governed 501(c)3 organization with its own local board.

The Tec Centro model provides no tuition cost, bilingual adult basic education and occupational training in careers that are in high demand in their local communities. These career opportunities are full-time employment that provides family-sustaining wages and benefits. The adult learner, on average, pays about $100 for their program while the true cost, often in the thousands of dollars, is underwritten by the center through a combination of charitable dollars, government grants and support, Neighborhood Assistance program, and philanthropy.

Most importantly, Tec Centro’s doors are open to everyone regardless of race, education, income, or any other factor. The demographics of people served vary from location to location but primarily include diverse cultures, bilingual and non-English speakers who are commonly unemployed or underemployed and living at or below the poverty line.

Tec Centro is critical to helping local employers meet their workforce demands, which helps to sustain their businesses and contributes productively to the economic vitality of the region. And while locations are ramping up their programs as fast as possible, the waitlist far outpaces our ability to meet demand. Across all locations, there are over 2,200 individuals currently on our waitlist, and more than $8M is needed to fund this waitlist.

So, as the nation takes a day to recognize the value of skilled trades, the solution to this growing problem will take much more than a single day or single initiative to evoke meaningful change. The Tec Centro Workforce Network has created a valuable blueprint for how communities can effectively come together to support a skilled workforce. But to grow this movement within our existing locations, and into additional cities and states, it will require a collaborative effort of public and private partnerships and funding. Whether you are a business owner, community leader, elected official, or someone who stands to benefit from workforce training services, you have the power to be an advocate. Make your voice heard, share your ideas, and be an active part of finding more solutions for workforce training in our Commonwealth. The future of our community and economy depends on it!

Violet Emory is the Executive Director of Tec Centro Berks, which is one of six locations within the Tec Centro Workforce Network, serving five counties, including Berks, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon, and York. The collective goal of the Network is to serve disproportionately disadvantaged populations in third-class cities that have a heavy concentration of residents who face barriers related to bilingual education, skills training, and job placement. By working to proactively address these barriers, the Network provides the tools and opportunities for a way out of poverty. Learn more by visiting:

The post Tec Centro Blazing New Trail for Workforce Training in Pennsylvania appeared first on BCTV.

Source: bctv

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