With Erie's changing work environment, officials examine workforce needs


State leaders are listening to concerns about problems facing the workforce. The Erie area has a front-row seat to the shift in demand for careers across the country. Today, Governor Tom Wolf's Middle-Class Task Force learns what this region needs to succeed.

Aaron Hanks says he's always been a tool and die guy, but a little more than a year ago, that all went away in a sweeping layoff at GE. Hanks says, "I've had the experience in industrial but I didn't have paper to go along with it so that I could get the better jobs and be able to move into management." Luckily, he says Erie County has enough resources for people like him, adjusting to the changing workforce.

"Right now, I'm doing the MET program: Mechanical, Engineering, Technologies; and then I'm going to continue and get my bachelor's in Industrial Engineering Administration," Hanks tells us.

As local leaders debate over getting a community college, state officials are saying they're seeing a greater need for that kind of resource. Gene Barr, President of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, says, "We know in Pennsylvania there are people without jobs, but there's also jobs without people. So, what has been identified so far in all of our meetings here has been the fact that we need to do a better job of aligning some of those workforce needs."

Governor Tom Wolf's Middle-Class Task Force team is visiting six regions, learning what's lacking for professionals across the commonwealth. Susan Snelick, Executive Director of Work Force Solutions, North Central Pennsylvania, tells us, "If you're in a rural region and you're looking at people being able to get to services and to work, they run into transportation issues where, in a more urban setting, they're not gonna have maybe those issues." Snelick says Erie County is a mixed bag, but by understanding the setbacks, they can help fill the needs.

Experts say a big problem facing Pennsylvania is an aging workforce and a lack of qualified workers to fill those positions.