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CVBJ: Healthcare, advanced manufacturing targets for workforce growth

The following was published in the July issue of the Cumberland Valley Business Journal. You can also find the article on Cumberlink.com.

Written by Laura Potthoff, CAEDC’s Business Retention & Finance Manager

Workforce development is a critical component of economic development. Cumberland Area Economic Development Corporation (CAEDC) plays an important role in connecting our educational institutions to our current employers. Each of our educational institutions are unique which offers us a diverse workforce and creates opportunities to meet our employer demands.

CAEDC’s Strategic Economic Development Plan directly supports the County’s Comprehensive Plan that includes Business Retention & Expansion strategies. As the county continues to be the fastest growing in the commonwealth, employers are having a hard time finding a skilled workforce to meet their demands. Cumberland County was tied for 4th out of 67 counties for the lowest unemployment rate in the state in 2016. While this shows a good sign that the residents of our Capital Region are mostly gainfully employed, it also places a real strain on existing and potential businesses in the area looking for a skilled workforce.

CAEDC, working with the South Central Workforce Investment Board (SCWIB), Cumberland Valley School District, Cumberland Perry Area Vocational Technical School, and Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC), several employers in the skilled trades, regional hospitals, and the United Way of Carlisle & Cumberland County, have created a Workforce Collaborative to build the future pipeline of skilled workers in key industries to meet growth demands.

Through interviews with our top employers, and data collection with Labor & Industry, CAEDC completed an analysis on key occupational gaps that exist in the region and in Cumberland County. Our workforce mission at CAEDC is to build a future pipeline of talent in jobs that pay in our region. This gap analysis led us to focus on Advanced Manufacturing and Healthcare. These are two areas in the study that have the highest demand for workers by 2024. These are also jobs that pay well. The demand that we see in these jobs are a combination of job replacement due to retirement or relocation, organic job growth, and technological advances.

CAEDC is specifically focused on the healthcare industry for a variety of reasons including:

Healthcare is our #1 private employer

Growing need for nurses to offset the wave of retirements from baby boomers

Pennsylvania ranks #2 for having the largest population of elderly, next to Florida

The number of Americans age 65 and older is expected to double during the next 4 decades

According to the Center for Workforce Information Analysis, there will be a net gain of over 2,900 registered nurses in the Harrisburg-Carlisle metro area by 2024 with an average wage of $68,310. Registered nurses are also being placed in leadership/managerial roles in locations such as urgent care centers, which requires them to have skills beyond those gained from a traditional nursing degree.

CAEDC is working with our two biggest healthcare providers, PinnacleHealth and Geisinger, along with the county’s largest school district, Cumberland Valley, and the Cumberland Perry Area Vo-Tech School to identify specialized curriculum that would prepare students for this career path. This pathways program would ideally include a variety of courses targeted at broad-based healthcare education including soft skills training.

“As we face a growing need for well-educated healthcare workers in the years ahead, we welcome the plan for a creative partnership between healthcare and educational institutions in our area,” said Ann Spade, VP and Chief Nursing Officer at PinnacleHealth.

“The Cumberland Valley School District believes that we must connect our educational programs directly to the economy,” said Fred Withum, Cumberland Valley School District Superintendent. “Given the projected need regionally for skilled healthcare providers, it only makes sense to partner with employers in the field to ensure that our students have the technical and soft skills necessary to successfully obtain jobs and establish careers in healthcare. The best investment for our taxpayers is to ensure our children can obtain jobs in careers that provide family-sustaining wages.”

We need to train our current and future workforces on how to gain skills in technology as it relates to all industries, but in our case, how it relates specifically to manufacturing and healthcare. The potential mergers, acquisitions and affiliations of our larger healthcare providers in the region also provides opportunities for continued growth in healthcare. As a region, we must embrace and be proactive in ensuring we have a skilled workforce available to fill the current and projected demand.

These workforce initiatives are just one way CAEDC helps to attract, retain and expand business in our region.

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