WEDnetPA: Penn College Offers Free Training for Business & Industry

Published 07.30.1999


Pennsylvania College of Technology is one of 30 colleges and universities throughout the Commonwealth that have teamed up to train 18,000 employees in 18 months in Pennsylvania's first Guaranteed Free Training Program, a $9 million contract funded by the Department of Community and Economic Development.

WEDnetPA, the Workforce and Economic Development Network of Pennsylvania, has been formed to launch the free training program. WEDnetPA is made up of Pennsylvania's 15 community colleges, its 14 State System universities, and Penn College.

"Penn College is proud to join with these institutions to administer this training network and to be responsive to employers' workforce development needs," said Dr. Davie Jane Gilmour, president of Penn College.

For Penn College, its Technology Transfer Center will serve as the coordinating organization for business and industry funding applications. The Technology Transfer Center has already obtained $406,119 in Guaranteed Free Training funding to train 932 new employees at 15 companies throughout Pennsylvania.

Among area companies participating in the initiative are: Masonite Corporation, Towanda; High Steel Structures, Inc., Williamsport; Truck-Lite Co., Inc., Wellsboro, McElhattan and Coudersport; Pennsylvania House, Lewisburg; Wood-Mode Inc., Kreamer; First Quality Products, Inc., McElhattan; Ward Manufacturing Inc., Blossburg and Lawrenceville, and Susquehanna Health System, Williamsport. In addition, companies located in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh areas are gaining training.

Larry L. Michael, associate dean for the Technology Transfer Center, explained that the Guaranteed Free Training Program is designed to strengthen Pennsylvania companies' competitiveness by improving the skill level of new employees for new and expanding manufacturing and technology-based companies.

"We are pleased to be able to offer this much-needed program to business and industry," Michael stated. "Training activities funded through the program will be those that improve the skill level of employees through the introduction of basic and entry-level work skills required to be successful in a variety of jobs."

Michael noted that state reimbursement for training will be up to $450 per new employee for credit or noncredit training and can be provided on-site at the business, at any of Penn College's campus locations, or through distance learning technologies.

These entry-level skills are defined according to the type and scope of the business and can include: computers, communications and teamwork, applied mathematics and measurement, workplace health and safety, problem-solving, quality assurance, manufacturing fundamentals such as blueprint reading, welding and soldering, tooling and grinding, setup, and machine maintenance; business operations; product and process control, and workplace behavior skills.

Heather Baldwin-McLean will serve as WEDnetPA coordinator for Penn College. She will work with the region's business and industry clients to administer funding and to develop training plans.

Baldwin-McLean said, "A resounding theme for many companies these days is that it is difficult to find and hire a skilled workforce. The WEDnetPA program affords companies the opportunity to provide the necessary training for new employees."

Qualifying for the program are Pennsylvania companies or companies that have a significant presence in the state and which are manufacturing or technology-based. To receive funds, the company must have hired 12 or more new full-time (37.5 hours per week) employees within a six-month period. New hires can be incremental positions to the workforce or replacement workers. The funding is to train only the new employees who must earn at least 150 percent of the minimum wage excluding benefits. Employees receiving training must be Pennsylvania residents and must remain in their position for at least 180 days following completion of the training. Companies whose main business is point-of-sale retail are not eligible.

"The application process is simple and painless," Baldwin-McLean added. "Approval can normally be obtained within five working days."

Businesses interested in the Guaranteed Free Training Program can contact Baldwin-McLean at Penn College's Technology Transfer Center in Williamsport at (570) 327-4775. Additional information about the program can be obtained on the Internet.