Erie Pennsylvania REthinking Regional Workforce Needs
Erie, Pennsylvania, known as the Great Lake port city, has a history of having a vibrant and dynamic economy. In its first years, Erie was known as being a major manufacturing hub, and for having the largest fishing port in the world. Today, the Erie economy is in transition, which is being assisted by an unprecedented partnership between the region’s businesses, government, economic development agencies, and philanthropic communities called REthink Erie. REthink Erie is an organization dedicated to addressing the region’s workforce development challenges and to creating a community college in the Erie region.
Results from an April 2009 survey of Erie’s employers confirmed that the region wanted to start a community college in the area. Too many employers were unable to find workers with the skills needed to fill available jobs. Employers made their point loud and clear: the region needed affordable education options, postsecondary training opportunities, and more skilled workers. A community college was the perfect solution to all three of these needs.
Letters of support from many of the region’s corporations, small businesses, religious institutions, and philanthropic organizations demonstrate the solidarity behind this movement. The Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership and their partner organizations recognize that community colleges allow individuals to earn credits which transfer to four-year higher education institutions, as well as provide the training and knowledge workers need to fulfill regional employers’ needs. All that was needed was to secure a local sponsor to submit the state application and accept responsibility for the community college once it was created.
In June 2010, REthink Erie finally found the sponsor they needed – the Erie County government. With this crucial step behind them, the dream of bringing a community college to the region is closer to becoming a reality.
“With Rethink Erie's launch in 2008, people from many different walks of life brought their skills, experience and perspectives to the table to take a hard look at our community's needs and figure out how best to address them,” says Mary Bula, vice president of the Growth Partnership Division at the Erie Regional Chamber & Growth Partnership. “When I look back over the last couple of years, I am both proud and grateful for the way our community came together to consider the merits of a community college and bring its creation closer to reality.”