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Gov. Wolf creates command center to connect workers with jobs

Many Pennsylvania businesses report their biggest problem is finding skilled workers in the state.

Gov. Tom Wolf
Gov. Tom WolfRead moreMatt Rourke / AP

HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday signed an executive order creating a command center to refine workforce-development programs in the hope of helping Pennsylvania employers hire more skilled workers in-state.

Wolf, joined by business leaders as well as Republican and Democratic lawmakers, said the new center will be asked to better coordinate the state’s myriad workforce and economic-development programs, which are spread across several departments.

“We must be bold, we must be ambitious, and we must break from the status quo,” Wolf, a Democrat, said at a news conference Tuesday.

The new center will be based in Harrisburg, and will be led by a six-member team of business and labor leaders appointed by Wolf as well as three cabinet secretaries from the administration.

One appointee, Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry president and CEO Gene Barr, said a recent survey of his organization’s members showed that for the first time, businesses listed difficulties finding skilled and qualified employees as the biggest problem they face.

“We have more jobs available than people to fill them,” said Barr.

Among the industries hardest hit, officials said, is manufacturing.

An audit by Auditor General Eugene DePasquale’s office released Tuesday recommended developing a plan for improving how schools and universities prepare students with “work-readiness” skills, including punctuality and problem-solving; retraining older workers; and re-branding skilled trade jobs so they are viewed as viable and financially sound alternatives to college.