Sustaining Pennsylvania’s Manufacturing Labor Force During and After the Pandemic
Almost a year ago, we highlighted how Northampton Community College (NCC) was supporting its surrounding manufacturing industry through its Micro-credentials in Manufacturing program, where thanks to funding from the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), anyone can access accelerated training for manufacturing industry job placement.
And, almost a year ago, we could have never predicted how 2020 would shift how the world did absolutely everything.
Pennsylvania Unites Against COVID-19
NCC’s Micro-credentials in Manufacturing students were in their sixth week of training in early 2020 when the global COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a standstill. NCC staff knew they had to pivot to remote training to ensure that manufacturing students could complete the program and move forward in their efforts to obtain employment. While this may sound bleak during a time where Pennsylvania’s economy was shuttered, NCC’s training specializes in providing students with exactly the knowledge and skills they need to be a desirable employee and then connecting them with employers who are ready to hire.
And DCED and NCC can attest to the fact that while the COVID-19 pandemic halted the regular operations of countless industries, in many cases, the manufacturing industry remained as busy as ever. In fact, notably, Pennsylvania’s manufacturing industry proactively reached out to DCED early in spring 2020 just to see what, if anything, they could do to help.
This resulted in the development of Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 Medical Supply Portals. These portals continue to assist in the procurement of medical supplies to ensure that our healthcare professionals and businesses are equipped with the supplies they need to continue their fight against COVID-19.
Consequently, this meant that many manufacturers were experiencing an increased need for skilled workers to support boosts in production. Whether a company was already making essential products or could pivot their operations to support healthcare production needs, the industry’s response to one of the most unprecedented times of our lives is a testament to their strength and pledge to community in our commonwealth.
Workforce Training is Key
Thanks to NCC’s commitment and pivot, an additional two classes of students seeking employment were able to receive this valuable skills training during the pandemic. Certainly, as time passed, we all gained more knowledge about how COVID-19 spreads and how to best mitigate that while continuing day-to-day life in this new normal. NCC incorporated protocols to protect both its students and teachers—limiting the number of students and social distancing when in a physical space—while simultaneously continuing to provide critical remote services from their program, like offering remote manufacturing plant and college tours. In addition to training remotely, NCC staff worked with students on resumes, mock Zoom interviews, and assisted with students’ online applications.
Employer Day—which we touched on when we first introduced NCC—has also adapted and transformed into a now week-long opportunity where companies can interview NCC students remotely. This increased interview time has led to recent program graduates being hired by local companies like Lutron, REEB, and Pennrose, and graduates have also been able to fill critical roles at BBraun, CAPS, and Myers Emergency Power Products.
Simon Gebremariam is just one graduate from the Micro-credentials in Manufacturing program in the midst of the pandemic.
This class was instrumental in getting my new position as a Machine Operator at PAC Worldwide. The hiring manager even commented on how well prepared I was to be successful in this role.
Thanks to the Manufacturing PA Training-to-Career funding from DCED and NCC’s commitment to adapt and pivot their training program, the college has been able to continue to support the manufacturing industry in northeastern Pennsylvania even as we navigate one of the strangest and most challenging times we have ever faced. While PA’s manufacturing industry stepped up tremendously to support the safety of the healthcare industry and the state as a whole, NCC’s graduates help fuel the industry’s ramped-up productions—efforts perfectly representative of Pennsylvania’s legendary “can-do” spirit.
To learn more about what Pennsylvania’s manufacturing industry can offer you and your company, visit the DCED website. If you are interested in applying for the Manufacturing PA Training-to-Career Grant program, visit our program webpage. Stay up-to-date on DCED news by following signing up for our monthly newsletter and following us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
Grant Project Coordinator for a variety of workforce development programs at Northampton Community College, partnering with Department of Community and Economic Development on the Micro-Credentials in Manufacturing Program. With over 18 years of experience in Human Resources and Career Services roles, Michele applies a positive approach to helping companies meet their employment needs while assisting students in identifying and achieving their career goals. Through one-on-one and classroom instruction, Michele engages with students, helps them eliminate barriers to employment, and develops viable candidates for high-demand positions in the Lehigh Valley.
Lauren is Vice President of Workforce Development/Continuing Education and Dean of the Fowler Family Southside Center at Northampton Community College. She came to NCC August, 2017 and is responsible for all non-credit programs at the college. This division of the college serves more than 15,000 individuals annually. Prior to joining NCC Lauren was Executive Director of Workforce Development at Bucks County Community College for 4 ½ years.