PAsmart An Important Step In Right Direction For Workforce
Improving our schools and ensuring that our students and educators have the resources they need to succeed has been a top priority for my husband as governor. It’s no secret that he has worked hard to make key investments in education from preschool through higher education in Pennsylvania since day one. And those efforts have produced real results for our students. Working with the legislature, Tom has successfully secured historic increases in education funding over the last three years, restoring $1 billion in cuts enacted during the previous administration. The bipartisan budget Tom signed into law last week builds on that success for our children by launching PAsmart — a new, strategic $30 million job training investment that will lead to a stronger, more skilled Pennsylvania workforce by prioritizing STEM and computer science education. Our economy is constantly changing. A 2016 report from the World Economic Forum on The Future of Jobs estimated that nearly two-thirds of children entering our K-12 system will ultimately work in jobs that don’t exist today. Yet only 2 percent of students in grades 7-12 in Pennsylvania took a computer science course last year. And, of that 2 percent, twice as many boys were enrolled in computer science courses than girls. I recently met with an impressive group of STEM educators, business leaders and advocates at the Governor’s Residence to discuss increasing participation of girls and women in computer science and STEM education. And the message was clear: we need to invest in programs like PAsmart and we need to work together to enroll more students — especially girls — in computer science and STEM courses. We must continually identify and remove the barriers that prevent girls and women from pursing high-demand careers that require STEM education and training. Providing these opportunities for girls isn’t just the right thing to do: it’s essential to keep Pennsylvania competitive. Businesses have been clear that they need more highly-skilled, trained workers to grow and compete globally. Women and girls represent significant untapped talent. We owe it to girls and women in our families, communities, and across the commonwealth to ensure that the next decade tells a different story than the many before — one where barriers give way to opportunity and a world where your zip code, background, and gender don’t determine your educational or economic destiny. And we owe it to our businesses to create a more skilled, trained, qualified workforce — a workforce that is as diverse and dynamic as our commonwealth. PAsmart is an important step in that direction. FRANCES WOLF is the first lady of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.