Pennsylvania will be getting $3.75 million from the federal government to beef up plastics industry training and to create a statewide network to bolster the competitiveness of the industry.
The largest chunk of the grant, $2.5 million, will fund training of about 1,200 workers during a three-year period. But the multifaceted effort also will include more research-oriented work, like analyzing the supply chain, occupational forecasting to see what future job needs could be, and a public relations effort to raise awareness of plastics as a career among students.
The effort also will hold research and development symposiums to aid in technology transfer and product development, and develop metrics to gauge the overall health of the industry, said Jack Gido, director of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development at Penn State University in University Park.
``Incumbent worker training is the key to the survival of the industry, but it's not enough,'' said William Brock, executive director of the Central Pennsylvania Workforce Development Corp. in Lewisburg, Pa. ``We don't think we have the magic wand here, but possibly we can help bolster their competitive advantage and get them what they want.''
The program also will include a board of industry representatives to help guide the work and a project manager in Gido's office at Penn State. The industry representatives have not been chosen.
The specific training programs in large part are driven by individual companies. Firms apply to one of the state's 22 local Workforce Investment Boards for funding for programs they would like to do, with a statewide office overseeing disbursement. Companies are required to match either in cash or in-kind, Gido said.
The grant also includes $550,000 to give scholarships to 100 students, $300,000 for internships and $300,000 to develop multimedia materials aimed at parents, teachers and students, particularly in middle schools, to entice young people into careers in plastics.
Beyond Penn State, the project also will include the Pennsylvania College of Technology and other manufacturing programs in the state, like the Manufacturing Extension Partnership. The state of Pennsylvania also will kick in about $1 million.
Brock said the strength of the project, and what attracted federal funding, is the linking of universities, economic development and worker training agencies around one specific industry. If the model works, Pennsylvania may seek to duplicate it with other industries, he said.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao announced the grant June 3 at a ceremony at Penn State's Erie campus.