When it comes to unemployment, unfortunately, Philadelphia is the local leader.
According to statistics released by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, Philadelphia led every local municipality with a 10.3 percent unemployment rate in March. Only Salem County, New Jersey, ranked higher, with 11.3 percent. And considering that the nationwide unemployment average is at about 8.4 percent, it would be easy to point to the lack of training and opportunity as two of the culprits.
The labor department also reports that 57 percent of people who work in a trade-related field in Pennsylvania have only a high school diploma or equivalent, and nearly 60 percent of Pennsylvania’s trade workers are 40 to 60 years of age.
The outlook is even bleaker for younger Philadelphians. The department’s data for April shows that 16.4 percent of all Philadelphians aged 16 to 24 are unemployed — exactly double the nationwide average of 8.2 percent.
Community College of Philadelphia is looking to change that trend by offering free training programs in the critical sectors of advanced manufacturing, energy conservation and health care.
The 10 to 12 week programs are designed specifically for Philadelphians 18 and older who hold either a high school diploma or GED, and have proof of being either currently displaced or unemployed.
“Our challenge will be to help laid-off and underemployed workers to understand that short-term and long-term planning is essential,” said CCP President Stephen M. Curtis, “if they are to meet labor demands. Pennsylvania employers … have made it clear that they prefer candidates with career-specific skills.”
With everyone from tool-and-die machinists to high-level educators and international business organizations decrying America’s lack of science, engineering, technology and math (STEM) training — these programs are critical, especially for able-bodied individuals willing to put in the course work.
And the course work promises to be intense. CCP is currently enrolling students for the Advance Manufacturing and Energy Conservation classes. In the 75-hour healthcare program, students would start off with basic math and learn the nuances of working in a pharmacy; they’d move on to taking have advanced classes in math, hospitality, home infusion and training in mail-order pharmaceuticals and prescription certification.
The healthcare program usually runs 6–8 weeks, and provides a solid introduction to the healthcare field for students with little or no experience. These classes begin in late August and early September.
Other examples of the challenging class work can be found in the Energy Conservation course, where students will be trained and certified by both the Building Performance Institute and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design — LEED — standards. Those classes are enrolling now and begin on June 11.
The Advanced Manufacturing Training program is also currently enrolling for classes that begin on July 9. Those students will receive hands-on electrical and mechanical system training, as well as receiving preparation for Advanced Manufacturing Integrated Systems Technology (AMIST) level 1 certification.
The training programs offered by CCP are sponsored by a three-year, $20 million Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant. This grant is divided among the state’s 14 community colleges, and academic officials involved in the grant hail its potential.
“Fields like advanced manufacturing (mechatronics) and energy are expected to add more than 16,000 jobs to the Pennsylvania economy by 2018,” said Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges and of the Community College of Allegheny County President Alex Johnson in a statement released by CCP. “And we are really pleased that this grant will help us to respond to these workforce needs.”
According to CCP, U.S. Representative Chaka Fattah hailed the $20 million TAACCCT grant that Pennsylvania received as the largest grant in the nation under the program. Fattah called it a way to “jumpstart capacity-building in the curriculum, particularly focused on training for advanced manufacturing, energy and healthcare related jobs.”