Owlett initiative would benefit our students, workforce

Young people grow up, finish their schooling and leave the area in search of jobs.

Meanwhile, local employers could grow their businesses if only they could find skilled workers.

So how can our society get the two together?

State Rep. Clint Owlett, R-Wellsboro, is the prime sponsor of a bill that takes aim at this issue. The bill, which would match students with job opportunities, recently passed the House Education Committee.

“Pre-pandemic, there were an estimated 200,000 unfilled skilled jobs here in the Commonwealth — good-paying, family sustaining jobs that sat open simply because there was no one available with the skills to do the work,” Owlett said. “We have the jobs and we have some very talented and hard-working students. We simply need to bring the two together, and that’s what this bill is designed to do.”

Modeled after the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program, House Bill 602 would establish the Career and Technical Education Investment Incentive Program and provide tax credits for employers who invest in career and technical education programs. Job creators could invest in scholarships or industry standard equipment for career and technical centers or programs in individual school districts.

The goal would be to train students for available jobs, a worthy endeavor, but is that all there is to getting them to stay? There’s likely more to this. We have a high quality of life in this region and are blessed with an abundance of resources, but young people crave excitement, something that often draws them toward the bigger cities. Besides providing good-paying jobs, we believe a focus on community development as well as the arts and nightlife will make our local communities appealing enough to make the next generation want to stay.

First we need to come out of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in as good a shape as possible, though this issue predates COVID-19. Who knows what the impact on “brain drain” will be in the long run? The world has shifted greatly since March 2020. Remote work has allowed people to escape the city and find comfort in more rural regions.

We do not know what the employment landscape will look like, but we believe Owlett is correct to prepare for it now. We need to fill the demand for workers and this can be part of the solution.

“We need to match our students with the jobs of today and tomorrow so they can stay in Pennsylvania if they choose,” Owlett said. “But no matter where they end up, this initiative would help set them up for success.”


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