Education, business leaders unite to address state's workforce needs

To assist students on their paths to college and productive careers, the Westmoreland County Forum for Workforce Development in Pennsylvania focused on how to align students' education with high-demand occupations at its inaugural event on Sept. 24.  

Leaders from the county’s school districts presented to nearly 200 countywide business, community and education professionals on how to connect students to careers in energy, engineering, technology, business, finance, IT, health, education and human services, security, government, and the environment.

The evening featured remarks from the Westmoreland County board of commissioners; Westmoreland County Community College President Tuesday Stanley; and Ron Cowell, president of the Education Policy and Leadership Center in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

“We need to fix the misalignment between education and workforce, and supply our companies with the skills that they need to stay here, to thrive here and to grow here,” James L. Smith, president/CEO of the Economic Growth Connection of Westmoreland, said. “Tonight’s program, crafted and shaped by the talented men and women in this room, offers the first steps toward that goal.”

The forum’s goals include adapting regional culture to support career education and work standards, creating an infrastructure that ensures educational resources are relevant, and developing a county model based on Pennsylvania Career Education and Work Standards.

“Career pathways ensure that students have a college credential that leads to a family wage-earning career in our communities,” Stanley said.

Participants watched an informational video. They also heard remarks from County Commissioners Charles Anderson, Tyler Courtney and Ted Kopas, who praised the forum’s pro-active commitment to students by aligning curricula to real-world experience. The evening also included a panel discussion.

Norwin Superintendent of Schools William Kerr, who is the chairman of the Westmoreland County Forum for Workforce Development, served as master of ceremonies.