WEDnetPA: Training Pennsylvania’s Workforce One Employee at a Time
Pennsylvania’s 6+ million-strong workforce of is one of our most compelling business advantages, and is one in which the state continues to make investments through dedicated programs and services. One such program, WEDnetPA, funded by the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), has helped more than 20,000 companies train more than one million Pennsylvania workers since its inception in 1999. To learn about how WEDnetPA enables Pennsylvanians to work smart and live happy, we spoke to Tom Venditti, the Statewide Director for WEDnetPA.
What services does WEDnetPA provide, and who are your beneficiaries?
WEDnetPA is Pennsylvania’s premier incumbent workforce training program. Our network of 26 universities, colleges, and partners provides expert support to help companies assess their training needs, develop training plans, and apply for funding. Our main objective is to assist companies in obtaining a level of training among employees that they otherwise could not have reached on their own.
“WEDnetPA allowed us to hire candidates with the right attitude and provide training to fill any gaps in the skills we needed.”
– Chad Manippo, HR Manager, H.F. Lenz Company, Cambria County
We offer two types of training: Essential Skills training, which provides instruction in skills needed to be successful in the workplace; and Technical Skills training, which provides instruction in technical and advanced manufacturing subjects. From workplace safety and quality assurance to software engineering and advanced machine operations, we truly offer a wide range of training opportunities. While a majority of the training is conducted through third-party training partners from the private sector, in some cases our colleges or universities deliver the training.
Focusing heavily on the manufacturing and technology industries, approximately 90 percent of WEDnetPA funds are invested into companies within Pennsylvania’s high-priority clusters. This includes agricultural and food production, energy, life sciences, and logistics and transportation, among a few others.
What does this job training program do differently that sets it apart?
When people hear “job training program,” they think of programs that focus on displaced workers or students. In contrast, WEDnetPA exists to help companies train their existing workforce — and we are one of the few programs out there doing it.
With this company-driven structure, employers can determine their own training needs and also select how, when, and where they receive the training. Companies can conduct training in classrooms, online, or even at their own facilities. They choose the training providers and what time of day the training takes place — whether during normal business hours, third shift, or the weekend. This flexibility and ownership of the process allows employers to make decisions to become more competitive while keeping employee skills current and relevant.
Since WEDnetPA’s inception, what progress have you seen?
WEDnetPA has been an incredible asset to businesses and employees across the state of Pennsylvania. In Fiscal Year 2019-20 alone, we invested over $6.5 million to help train more than 24,000 people.
According to a report by the PA Department of Labor and Industry’s Center for Workforce Information Analysis, companies experience an 86 percent retention rate among employees trained through WEDnetPA. On top of that, those employees increase their wages an average of 10 percent within the first year.
“WEDnetPA helped our company identify the training needs of our employees and develop a plan to meet those needs. Training increases employee morale and productivity. It’s great to say our products are not only “Made in the USA” but they are also “Proudly Made in Pennsylvania!”
– Catherine Campanaro, Manager, Bio Med Sciences, Lehigh County
One example of this success comes from REBDEV, LLC, a small, woman-owned custom software development company in western Pennsylvania. In January 2018, WEDnetPA helped REBDEV train five employees in Sage X3 Developer, a business cloud enterprise management platform. As a young, start-up business, this training helped acccelerate their growth.
Heister House Millworks, a premium quality, custom millwork company in southeastern Pennsylvania, also found success through WEDnetPA funds. Manufacturing mouldings, doors, flooring and cabinetry, the company employs highly-skilled craftsmen that work with the finest Pennsylvania hardwoods. Understanding that investing in training shows their employees that they value them, the company utilized WEDnetPA funds to provide core training in teamwork and problem solving.
Through WEDnetPA’s continued success, we’re serving both Pennsylvania’s employers and employees, equipping them to be productive today and in the years to come.
For more information on the WEDnetPA program, visit WEDnetPA. While the main application process takes place May-July, companies are encouraged to apply for WEDnetPA funding year-round. Consider the company guidelines and contact your local partner to begin the application process. You can also learn more about Pennsylvania’s skilled workforce and training offerings at DCED website and you can stay up-to-date with all PA news by signing up for our monthly newsletter following us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Tom Venditti is the statewide director for WEDnetPA, and is responsible for program administration, which includes managing a network of 27 colleges, universities, and other partners investing $8-10 million per year to help train Pennsylvania’s manufacturing and technology workforce.