Gov. Tom Wolf recently unveiled his “Back to Work PA” plan, which he said will bolster economic recovery efforts and position Pennsylvania for economic growth after the COVID-19 pandemic significantly affected workers, businesses and communities.
“Pennsylvania needs a comprehensive, forward-thinking plan to jumpstart our economy and support our workforce,” he said. “Back to Work PA will make strategic and comprehensive investments to build a stronger and more diverse workforce, support Pennsylvania’s businesses while attracting businesses to the commonwealth, and assist communities with economic recovery efforts – all of which will help us get back on track and build a brighter future for Pennsylvania.”
Back to Work PA builds on recommendations from the Keystone Economic Development and Workforce Command Center’s annual report, published in January 2020. Refocusing Restore PA, Back to Work PA would be funded by an extraction tax on the natural gas industry, which Wolf said would allow for an injection of $3 billion to enhance existing initiatives and create new programs to address barriers that are holding back Pennsylvania’s workforce.
According to Wolf, the plan would support workers most significantly impacted by the pandemic, address inequities, direct resources to support talent development for high-demand occupations, and focus on high-quality, well-paying jobs that lead to careers with family-sustaining wages:
– Invest in rapid reskilling, upskilling and skills transfer to connect unemployed Pennsylvanians to new career opportunities
– Invest in programs that enhance digital literacy skills
– Expand on registered apprenticeship programs to include non-traditional occupations like healthcare, child care, information technology and manufacturing
– Expand on education and training opportunities that support middle-skill jobs and the skilled-trades
– Transform workforce development services, including individualized career coaching and enhanced wrap-around supports to address barriers to employment
– Support child care stabilization by increasing child care subsidies, assisting employers seeking to develop or expand on-site child care, assisting child care centers to expand services during non-traditional work hours, and eliminating child care deserts
– Support innovative programs that help re-entering citizens obtain credentials and access employment opportunities
To support and attract businesses, Wolf said the plan would develop a strong reshoring initiative. Supply chain issues have affected businesses across the country, and Pennsylvania’s manufacturing sector is poised to compete nationally and globally to address those needs.
– Back to Work PA would develop the initiative by prioritizing and recapitalizing existing programs, such as: Business in Our Sites, Industrial Sites Reuse Program, Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority, Machinery and Equipment Loan Fund
– Increase investment into an aggressive business attraction marketing strategy to package and promote reshoring programs
– Support innovation and entrepreneurs by developing a funding strategy to foster the creation of new companies and attract and retain talent in Pennsylvania
– Provide strategic financial planning opportunities for municipalities so that they can address the revenue losses experienced during the pandemic and prepare for potential future economic disruptions: expand Municipal Assistance Program to provide additional services to municipalities; expand and reform Act 47; expand Strategic Management Planning Program
COVID-19 disruptions have shown that broadband access is a necessity. Back to Work PA would prioritize making high-speed internet access available to all Pennsylvanians by building out this infrastructure in unserved areas of the commonwealth. Wolf said internet access is a fundamental pillar to giving Pennsylvanians an opportunity for economic vitality.
“We know that no two jobs are exactly the same, no two workers are exactly the same, and no two businesses are exactly the same. The individualized services in the governor’s Back to Work PA plan connect job seekers to the education or training that will set them up for success in the labor market, while also helping businesses connect to the skilled workforce they need to thrive,” said Department of Labor & Industry Acting Secretary Jennifer Berrier. “By making these smart investments now, we can build up our workforce to make Pennsylvania’s workers the most in-demand in the country as we emerge into the new post-pandemic world.”
Back to Work PA is part of the governor’s 2021 legislative plan.
“Our businesses need the immediate relief that these funds will provide, but we also need long-term solutions,” Wolf said. “Getting Pennsylvania back on track after the pandemic means investing in the businesses and workers that drive our economy and developing a sustainable solution to support long-term economic recovery. Back to Work PA will foster economic recovery by investing in our businesses, our workers and our communities.”