Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: More than $460,000 in grants will boost industries, apprenticeship programs in Northwest Pa.

HARRISBURG, Feb. 7 – More than $460,000 in state grants will expand job training opportunities for Erie County residents, while helping regional industries become more competitive, according to state Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, all D-Erie.

Five grants – all part of the PAsmart initiative – will connect students and other area job seekers with regional employers in the advanced manufacturing, plastics, and building and construction industries. Apprenticeships are a major focus of the initiative.

“Apprenticeships in high-tech industries are especially exciting because they introduce students to jobs in a real-world setting that teaches real-world skills,” Bizzarro said. “For example, students doing a pre-apprenticeship program in the plastics industry will get both an overview of the industry and specific training on working with injection-molding machinery.”

“Programs like these are incredibly valuable because they offer young Pennsylvanians an opportunity to earn as they learn,” Merski added. “Students gain skills and confidence while working under the guidance and encouragement of a mentor, which is the ideal setting for developing career and technical skills.”

Harkins agreed, saying, “There’s no replacement for on-the-job training, particularly where high-skill careers are involved. Registered apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs are a win-win for everyone because they provide students with real-world training while allowing employers to customize that training to their specific needs.”

The funding includes:

  • A $280,555 Ambassador Network grant to Thomas P. Miller and Associates to convene a consortium of partners to identify local needs, provide quarterly webinars and technical assistance, and promote apprenticeship growth and retention.

  • A $60,000 pre-apprenticeship grant to NWPA Job Connect to develop pre-apprenticeships in northwest Pennsylvania and invest in education and training opportunities that will supply skilled workers for registered apprenticeship programs.

  • A $45,950 pre-apprenticeship grant to the Greater Erie Community Action Committee to administer a pre-apprenticeship program in northwest Pennsylvania’s plastics industry.

  • A $43,252 Next Generation Manufacturing Industry Partnership grant to NWPA Job Connect to create a partnership in the advanced manufacturing industry.

  • A $36,984 Next Generation Building and Construction Industry Partnership grant to NWPA Job Connect to create a partnership in the building and construction industries.

Apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship grants are administered by the state Department of Labor and Industry. Next Generation grants – which connect area workers and industries through public-private partnerships – are administered by both L&I and the state Department of Community and Economic Development.