Keeping Pa.'s Workers
on the Cutting Edge

by Jennifer Cline, writer/editor-One College Avenue.

Since its beginning, more than 800,000 workers at nearly 14,000 companies have been trained in the Guaranteed Free Training program.

The Workforce and Economic Development Network of Pennsylvania (WEDnetPA) celebrated 10 years of helping to strengthen the statewide business environment and providing Guaranteed Free Training to Pennsylvania companies.

WEDnetPA is managed by Pennsylvania College of Technology. It affords access to training funds through an alliance of 33 educational providers throughout the state, including the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education universities, the state’s 14 community colleges, Penn College, the North Central Industrial Technical Education Center, the Lancaster County Career and Technology Center, the Greater Altoona Career and Technology Center, and the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford.

Over the past 10 years, as one of the 33 educational partners, Penn College has facilitated funding and training for 60,655 employees at 230 local companies.

WEDnet Logo

At a recent 10th anniversary event at the Capitol Building in Harrisburg, Penn College and three of its clients – AccuWeather.com, of State College; Ralph S. Alberts Co., of Montoursville; and McClarin Plastics, of Hanover – met with legislators to emphasize the importance of WEDnetPA training to the local economy. In all, WEDnetPA participating companies and educational partners met with 60 legislators to foster awareness of the program.

A third-generation, family-owned manufacturing company, the Ralph S. Alberts Co. was started in the basement of his grandfather’s home, Seth Alberts, vice president for the custom-molding business, told legislators.

The company participated in Guaranteed Free Training for Web design and computer-aided product design, which allowed it to bring more of those functions in-house, as well as leadership training, which improved company communication at all levels.

Seth Alberts (right), of Ralph S. Alberts Co., Montoursville, talks with state Rep. Rick Mirabito (D-Williamsport), who also serves on the Penn College Board of Directors, during the WEDnetPA 10th anniversary festivities at the state Capitol Building in Harrisburg.

“As an employer, you can never have enough skilled employees,” Alberts said. “The more training he or she can receive in regards to new technology, the more valuable that individual will become, and the better this company will eventually be. WEDnetPA allowed us to market our company in a more efficient manner in regards to the Internet. Furthermore, it helped with the training of CAD and 3D technology, which helped us to quote more efficiently, which further brought more job opportunities in-house.”

“Training done through WEDnetPA helped McClarin to change the culture of the company and move to a world-class company able to compete in today’s most competitive climate,” said Todd R. Kennedy, president of McClarin Plastics. “Employees benefited by having their skills upgraded and becoming more productive, with a noticeable improvement in morale and retention.”

McClarin is a premier supplier of large thermoplastic and fiberglass-reinforced plastic components, serving customers in 17 states, as well as five countries internationally.

Guaranteed Free Training is funded by the state Department of Community and Economic Development through its customized job-training program, which was created to provide employers with opportunities for employee training and retraining in manufacturing fundamentals, product and process control, quality assurance, applied math and measurement, information technology, and many other areas.

“I have had the privilege of working with the commonwealth to help develop the program concept and guidelines from the inception in 1999,” said Larry L. Michael, executive director of workforce and economic development at Penn College. “Watching the teamwork and collaboration grow among the partners over the years, including all of the commonwealth’s community colleges and State System of Higher Education institutions, has been very rewarding. Our partnership provides state government a single point of contact to work with to administer statewide workforce-development initiatives.”

George Cornelius, acting secretary of the state Department of Community and Economic Development, is flanked by representatives of WEDnetPA's 33 educational partners and 30 of its business clients as he speaks at a press conference to help celebrate the network's 10th anniversary.

Since its beginning, more than 800,000 workers at nearly 14,000 companies have been trained in the Guaranteed Free Training program.

“Pennsylvania is committed to providing businesses with the necessary tools they need to be strong and successful,” DCED acting Secretary George Cornelius said at a Capitol Rotunda celebration.

“To date, this year, WEDnetPA and the Rendell administration have provided basic and entry-level skills training and advanced information-technology training to more than 37,000 employees in 64 counties,” Cornelius continued. “This investment is providing businesses with an educated, highly skilled workforce, and it further encourages job growth and business expansion.”

WEDnetPA was created to help make companies across the commonwealth more competitive by updating and improving the skills of their employees to meet specific company needs. Each year, WEDnetPA partners reach out to significant numbers of Pennsylvania companies and employees, strengthening the commonwealth’s workforce and businesses and, in turn, strengthening Pennsylvania’s economy.

“Penn College is very pleased to serve as the overall grant and fiscal manager of this important commonwealth initiative,” said Davie Jane Gilmour, president of the college. “WEDnetPA partner institutions have effectively delivered workforce-development services to more than 14,000 companies over the past 10 years. The strength of this program is that individual companies choose the training and the training vendor that is most effective for them. I congratulate the system for 10 years of outstanding success.”

Gov. Edward G. Rendell issued a citation to congratulate the network. “The decade-long effort put forth by WEDnetPA on behalf of the working men and women is highly commendable and gives truth to the statement that Pennsylvania is known for its quality workforce and ethic that produces results,” he stated in the document.

“The training provided through WEDnetPA helps Pennsylvania companies stay competitive nationally and internationally by providing training they otherwise might not be able to afford,” said Tom Venditti, statewide director for WEDnetPA. “We provide a well-trained workforce so individual companies can survive, thrive and grow in the commonwealth.”

The anniversary event at the Capitol featured remarks by Cornelius, Venditti, Sen. John R. Gordner (R-Berwick) and Rep. Peter J. Daley (D-Washington/Fayette). Representatives from 30 companies that have been participants in the Guaranteed Free Training program also attended.

As the entire nation endures challenging economic times, WEDnetPA’s Guaranteed Free Training program becomes increasingly important to the commonwealth and its businesses. Now more than ever, the program is needed to keep Pennsylvania’s workers better prepared and skilled, and to serve as a key component in the commonwealth’s workforce-development strategies to ensure future stabilization and growth.

In a recent statewide survey, 98 percent of companies receiving training indicated positive outcomes, including improved product/service quality, a safer workplace with fewer accidents, new customers and increased business, improved communications and teamwork, and increases in employee pay and compensation.

Employers have the flexibility to choose any private-sector training provider, any of the 33 WEDnetPA partners, or the company’s own in-house staff to address their workforce-training needs. More than 7,500 private-sector vendors have provided training through the program.

By giving individual companies the flexibility to get the training they need – how, where and when they need it – WEDnetPA achieves maximum efficiency with 91 percent of the program’s resources going directly to help pay for employee training. This ease of use has enabled more than 1,500 companies to participate this year alone. ■

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