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Area Business Leaders On Board with Education Partnership Law, Tobash Says
Rep. Mike Tobash (R-Schuylkill/Dauphin) hosted a meeting on Thursday at SAPA Extrusions in Cressona with several members from the area business community to explain Pennsylvania’s Business Education Partnership ideas for Schuylkill County.  
– In an effort to jump start Pennsylvania’s Business Education Partnership pilot program in Schuylkill County, Rep. Mike Tobash (R-Schuylkill/Dauphin) hosted a meeting on Thursday at SAPA Extrusions in Cressona with several members from the area business community.
Representatives from a dozen area manufacturing businesses attended, as well as leaders from area business groups and local government.
Tobash was the sponsor of Act 168 of 2014, which established the Business Education Partnership, a law allowing educators to receive continuing education credits when they visit certain manufacturing facilities. The visits would take teachers to manufacturers for in-person tours and orientation programs in their facilities.
“Schuylkill County will be the pilot for this statewide program,” Tobash said. “The act was signed into law in the fall, and now it’s time to implement. The law will help connect our business community, higher education, public schools, and career and technical centers. Thursday’s meeting showed the willingness of every business to open their doors to educators to build awareness of what they do. Once teachers see the high-tech, high-paying job opportunities that are available, and how they benefit our economy, we’ll begin to break down the stigma that exists in vocational education.”
While the program regulations are being developed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Tobash explained that his vision is for businesses to be able to showcase what they do, the jobs that are available, how they benefit the local economy, the products they make, and the opportunities for advancement and further training and learning.
“The face of manufacturing has changed, and in the future the pool of workers is expected to be smaller,” NEPA Manufacturers and Employers Association President Darlene Robbins explained. “If workers want to succeed, they’ll need continuous improvement with on-the-job education. Representative Tobash’s bill will allow educators to pass along the available job opportunities and the skill level needed to students, better equipping them to choose a career path and the education needed for their chosen career.”
Tobash has worked with several area business owners to get their feedback and input about the program. He’s worked closely with Ashland Technologies Chief Executive Officer John Powers Jr. to establish a pilot program template.
“This initiative is about guiding students in the right direction, and ensuring they are aware of the family-sustaining jobs that are available right here in Schuylkill County,” said Powers. “We have the right work ethic here; we just need to do a better job of coupling that with the necessary work skills.” Powers suggested that the program be looked at from a geographical standpoint throughout the county to achieve the best results.
Individuals who spoke at the meeting conveyed some common themes, including the notion that businesses are growing, yet the struggle continues to find qualified candidates to fill the vacancies. Additionally, businesses are competing for young, trained workers to fill positions of the soon-to-retire baby boomers.
“Sometimes a great plan is very much needed, yet it’s very simple,” said Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bob Carl. “If we don’t familiarize our kids with the business community, they won’t know the opportunities that are available. Educators and the business community operate very differently, and I believe that there is currently a disconnect, but we’re going to fix that.”
Beyond Act 168 of 2014, the idea to help connect job creators with a new generation of highly skilled and trained workers is the focus of the House Education Committee’s Select Committee on Technical Education and Career Readiness, that was approved by the House this week. Members of this select committee will seek to refocus Pennsylvania’s secondary and post-secondary education on career training to match graduates with the existing good-paying jobs that are available within the state’s borders.
“I’d like to extend a special thanks to SAPA for allowing us to meet at its facility on Thursday,” Tobash said. “Also, I thank the Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce, the NEPA Manufacturers and Employers Association, SEDCO and Ashland Technologies Inc., for serving as local partners and stakeholders, and for their hard work and dedication in making this program a reality. I believe that Schuylkill County’s best days are ahead, and I look forward to this program improving the labor force and the overall local economy, and eventually across the Commonwealth.”
For more information about Tobash’s Business Education Partnership, or any state-related issue, call his district office in Schuylkill Haven at 570-385-8235, or his Capitol office in Harrisburg at 717-260-6148.
Representative Mike Tobash
125th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Krisinda Corbin
717.705.2032 /
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