Skilled workforce is a concern with future economic growth

Dustin Haluska For Echo Pilot

L. Michael Ross can be entertaining with his humor.

However, he takes the economic growth and employment of Franklin County very seriously.

Ross, the long-time president of the Franklin County Area Development Corp., expressed his concern about having enough workers to match the area's economic growth before more than 170 people who gathered Thursday morning at the Chambersburg Country Club for the annual FCADC State of the Economy Breakfast.

"This workforce issue is a big deal. It's a good problem to have, but it's a problem," said Ross, who showed the new manufacturers who came to Franklin County in 2017 alone on a projection screen.

Ross specifically pointed out the needs of factories and hospitals require skilled laborers. He also shared updates on economic growth and the job market in Franklin County.

As a remedy to shortage of skilled laborers, Ross referenced the welding training center which was opened by Phenomenal Industries last year in Chambersburg.

"That's one way of trying to participate in the workforce development side of it," Ross pointed out.

He stressed the importance of having people trained to fill jobs that are not only available now, but ones that will exist through future growth. Ross added that long-time local manufacturing staples like Manitowoc and JLG will continue to have needs for skilled labor positions.

Ross then turned the microphone over to Jesse McCree, chief executive officer of SCPa Works, which is a workforce development corporation.

McCree broke down the numbers showing that there are 2,600 people unemployed but at least 3,000 open positions in Franklin County.

"There are challenges with growth. It's really a numbers game. Do we have enough skilled people to be able to fill the pipeline and continue to drive our economic growth forward?" McCree asked.

McCree highlighted that in a few years about 65 percent of all jobs will require some level of post-secondary education.

"People are moving here and economic growth is happening here. This is where economic growth in Pennsylvania is happening," McCree noted.

Like Ross, McCree also said that training skilled laborers is critical, but he also touched on some of the barriers people face, such as illiteracy and criminal records.

SCPa Works funds employment and training programs in the area and operates six PA CareerLink sites to serve the needs of thousands of people each year.

"There is a lot going on and everyone in this room contributes to the economic development of Franklin County," Ross said.