Economic developers know that the key to attracting and retaining top businesses often lies in the ability to provide access to a highly skilled workforce. That's why the region's public schools, university and community and technical colleges work with business leaders to stay abreast of workforce needs and maintain a steady flow of talent – and training – to high-growth industries.
The Monroe campus of Northampton Community College, for example, recently partnered with the Pocono Medical Center to provide EMT training after determining there was a need for additional training to upgrade the EMT programs and services in Monroe County. The college also works with Tobyhanna Army Depot, the county's largest employer, to help recruit and train potential IT employees. Northampton offers a range of programs from cyber security and health care to manufacturing technology and criminal justice as well as a number of continuing education programs.
"The importance the college plays in workforce development is reflected in how we work with employers and with local economic development organizations to ensure that the workforce has the educational preparation and interpersonal skills that will enable them to be successful in employment opportunities in Monroe County," says Matthew J. Connell, Dean of Northampton's Monroe Campus. "We utilize advisory boards that work with our academic programs to make sure that what we're offering in our curriculum meets employment and employer needs."
Good Business Partners
Connell points to the college's 20-year relationship with biopharma company SanofiPasteur as an example. Northampton developed an associates degree in biotechnology to help keep the company staffed with the specific skills it requires.
"We've had a very strong relationship with Sanofi," Connell says, "and as a result of that relationship and conversations with key Sanofi staff members, we decided to add the biotechnology program. With their help, we've made sure that what we're offering meets Sanofi's needs but also ensures that graduates have options to gain employment in other areas that require a biotechnology background."
Lackawanna College's Lake Region Center works with both business and community leaders to build programs that help ensure graduates move from the classroom straight into jobs. In particular, the college's Kiesendahl School of Hospitality and Tourism partners with area hotels and resorts to give students hands-on training and preparation to enter the region's booming tourism industry.
"Our students work closely with the Lodge at Woodloch, Settlers Inn and Great Wolf Lodge among others. They get the hands-on experience, they job shadow and then usually are hired right after externships and internships," says Kellyn Nolan, Lackawanna College's Lake Region Center Director.
Nolan says the school also partners with leaders in the health care, agriculture, banking and even criminal justice to not only give students opportunities to gain real-world experience but also a leg up in the job market.
"Students in our physical therapy assistant program go into different medical facilities and observe what other physical therapists are working on, and then when they're done with their clinical hours, most of them are hired," Nolan says. "Our accounting majors obtain externships and internships at local banks and accounting firms. We're currently working on a collaborative internship/externship program for sustainable agriculture programs, where students can learn different farming techniques and then possibly start or work on a farm."
The Monroe Career & Technical Institute and Carbon County Technical Institute play a major role in the region's workforce development efforts by working with local schools to give high school students a head start on their career path and by developing programs of study that meet the specific needs of a growing economy.
"Our programs are designed, maintained, and updated through a collaborative effort with business and industry partners, MCTI instructors, administration, and the Pennsylvania Department of Education to meet the employment needs in the local area," says Adam Lazarchak, director, Monroe Career & Technical Institute. "This effort goes well beyond curriculum and equipment, this collaborative effort spills over to work-based learning activities that include cooperative education, job shadowing, and internships. We are also working to meet one of business and industry’s greatest needs at this time – employable skills."