What we talk about when we talk about ‘workforce development’ | Wednesday Morning Coffee

February 20, 2019 7:32 am

Delaware County Community College (WikiMedia Commons

Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

If there’s a phrase that’s buzzier this budget season than ‘workforce development,’ we are hard-pressed to think of what it is. It featured heavily in Gov. Tom Wolf’s 2019-20 budget address earlier this month. It’s the thing that lawmakers and policy-types say we need to concentrate on if Pennsylvania is to shed its mantle of the nation’s most superannuated state and finally get dragged, kicking and screaming, into the late 20th century.

In fact, there was Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday, announcing the creation of a ‘Workforce Development Command Center,” aimed at doing … erm … stuff that will make the state more economically competitive.

But what, exactly, are we talking about when we talk about ‘workforce development?

It must be a good idea, right? And we know this because both union leaders and labor bosses were able to occupy the same place in space-time without engaging in some kind of Ragnarokian battle for the state’s economic soul.

Yes, we just turned the Twilight of the Gods into an adjective. Fight us.

But if we’re going to have a conversation about this thing that everyone seems to recognize – like porn – when they see it, the least we can do is define it in some sort of meaningful way.

So here’s a definition, courtesy of, which is a thing we found on the web through the miracle of the Google machine:

“Workforce development is an essential process for organizations that want to cultivate a top-quality workforce,”  the site’s definition reads.

Sounds simple enough. But how do we get there? That, of course, is the rub.

“Workforce development works by preparing workers with the skills necessary for a specific type of job. It prioritizes the value of ongoing workplace education and skills development, as well as addresses the hiring demands of employers. Because the goal of workplace development is to place workers in jobs where there are career development opportunities — and to nurture that development — a company can ensure they have an adequate supply of qualified individuals for their needs.”

But wait, there’s more:

“Workforce development helps to create a culture of learning and constructive attitudes that builds a workforce’s tangible and intangible abilities to manage and deal with future challenges.”

There’s about a thousand buzzwords and impenetrable instances of corporate gobbledlygook right there.

It reads like the kind of stuff that middle managers say to each other during interminable meetings while each nods sagely while pretending to know what the heck the other is talking about.

So, by all means, let’s have a debate about how Pennsylvania creates a more qualified and competitive workforce. But in the midst of all that, policymakers need to specifically define what that means – whether as Wolf proposes, economic incentives for community college grads, or a higher minimum wage.

And they need to remember to couch it in language that the voters – not corporate bigwigs and labor bosses, who are fluent in bureaucratese, already understand.

Our Stuff.
Staff Reporter Stephen Caruso
 has the deets on a bill that would expand access to solar energy.
Unregulated gaming cost the state $95M in lost revenueElizabeth Hardison reports.
Associate Editor Sarah Anne Hughes went to Day 1 of the federal lawsuit against the Corrections Department’s inmate mail policy.
We went to York and checked out a press conference on a two-day expo focused on the long-term health of Pennsylvania’s Latin-American population.
Pennsylvania’s Dominican-Americans celebrated the 175th anniversary of the island nation’s independence.

On the Opinion side of the house, ‘Both Sides Now‘ returns with a pro and con debate on charter schools.
And expert Kevin Dolphin, of Harrisburg, who’s seen the system from both sides of a prison cell, explains where we have to go next on criminal justice reform.

shift from ‘people greeters’ to ‘customer hosts’ could cost a disabled man his job, PennLive reports.

State Rep. Brian Ellis, R-Butler, remains on leave as a sexual assault investigation continuesPennLive also reports.

PennLive runs its annual list of state employees who make $100K or more.

The Inquirer has the harrowing tale of what goes on inside the ‘Harvard’ of Pennsylvania reform schools.

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., tells The Tribune-Review he’s concerned about President Trump’s congressional end run on wall funding.

Western Pa. food pantries are still busy after the government shutdownThe Post-Gazette reports.

Here’s your #Harrisburg Instagram of the Day:

Here’s BillyPenn on a recurring instance of internecine warfare among Philadelphia Democrats.

U.S. Rep. Susan Wild, D-7th District, talked Medicare-for-All and the Green New Deal during a town hall event in Nazareth, Pa., The Morning Call reports.

Former U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa.has signed on with the same D.C. mega-law and lobbying firm as ex-U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., PoliticsPa reports.

majority of respondents to a new Politico/Morning Consult poll oppose President Trump’s emergency declaration on wall funding.

Of course there’s a Netflix parody of Trump’s proposed ‘Space Force’ (via Roll Call).

What Goes On.
Executive branch agencies have the day off onaccounta the snow.
The House gavels in at 11 a.m. Budget hearings appear set to roll onward in the Senate Appropriations Committee. All hearings are in Hearing Room 1 of the North Office Building.
10 a.m.: Dept. of State
1 p.m.: Pa. Historical and Museum Commission

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
8 a.m.:
 Breakfast for Rep. Peter Schweyer
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Valerie Gaydos
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Joanna McClinton
Ride the circuit, and give at the max, and you’ll be out a mere $3,500 today.

Gov. Tom Wolf has no public schedule today.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s a classic from Prefab Sprout. If this doesn’t move you, check your pulse. It’s ‘Cars and Girls.’

Wednesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
The Rangers broke Carolina’s winning streak, beating the ‘Canes 2-1 at home.

And now you’re up to date.

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