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Chamber to Discuss Workforce Crisis with State Agencies

As employers of all types and sizes continue to struggle to fill open positions, The Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce is joining other chambers from across the state in calling on agencies and officials for policy changes. Among the issues keeping people from reentering the workforce are UC fraud and extended benefits, child care, and skills training. Chambers will be discussing a unified platform and meeting with representatives of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry, State Treasurer, Attorney General, and Auditor General next week.

While the $300 per week federal unemployment bonus payment is scheduled to end September 6th, employers are not seeing a rush of people applying for positions. Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate was at 6.6% for July, compared to a national rate of 5.4%. Attendance at the NPBC job fair held at the Bloomsburg Fairgrounds on August 28th was light and participating employers reported many incidents of people not showing up for interviews, performing poorly in interviews, and declining offers since the active work search requirement was reinstated. Legislation is being drafted that would make an individual ineligible for benefits if they discourage their own hire by such activities. 

For parents, ever-changing school schedules throughout the pandemic and child care availability create work-related challenges. Affordable, quality early child care and education allows parents to be more active in the workforce now, and helps prepare children for a lifetime of learning and socialization. The Chamber has been a member of the Columbia Montour Early Learning Investment Committee since its inception in order to understand the challenges of providing quality child care and education and is developing an advocacy platform to encourage long-term improvements to the system.

People willing and able to reenter the workforce often need training to meet the needs of employers. Using funds from the federal recovery programs, The Chamber has assisted with the development of basic employability skills and skilled trades training programs. Employers have identified additional training needs and workforce funding policies need to be revised so that these programs can be sustainable and expanded.

Other opportunities to strengthen the workforce include people incarcerated in state facilities or on probation at the local level. The Chamber is in discussions about consistent programs to encourage and assist these individuals in entering the workforce and connect them with local employers.

“There is no magic bullet for solving the workforce needs of our employers, but we have to be more aggressive in dealing with the underlying issues,” said Fred Gaffney, Chamber President. “A coalition of chambers from across the state is amplifying the calls from our members for long-term policy changes in order to strengthen Pennsylvania’s economy.”

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