Highlighting Progress: Reflecting on the #FreetheData Campaign for a Stronger Workforce in Pennsylvania

With last week’s close of the legislative year, we wanted to reflect on our progress on one of the Pennsylvania Workforce Development Association’s key legislative priorities, #FreetheData. 

The Campaign Launch: Empowering Pennsylvania’s Workforce

Last spring, we launched a coalition and campaign to pass legislation allowing better access to workforce data from the Commonwealth. 

The campaign was simple. We wanted more timely access to workforce data so our partners and stakeholders could react more effectively to the conditions in our local economies. 

Data Lag Dilemma: Navigating the 24-Month Challenge

Currently, local workforce boards and other stakeholders in Pennsylvania are experiencing a severe data lag that makes it difficult to evaluate and change workforce policies and programs effectively. Specifically, Unemployment Compensation and new hire data can take up to 24 months to access from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. Two-year-old data does not provide enough information to redesign programs or processes that improve customer outcomes. In the last several years, we have seen how quickly economic and workforce conditions have changed.

We celebrated a lot of progress and success this year. 

Legislative Milestones: A Year of Success and Collaboration

Legislators introduced bills in the House and Senate, building bipartisan momentum to #FreetheData and end the 24-month data lag for workforce development organizations and employers. We enjoyed partnerships with legislators on both sides of the aisle and made real progress toward achieving passage. 

Championing Progress: Sen. Camera Bartolotta and Reps. Jennifer O’Mara and Kate Klunk

Sen. Camera Bartolotta circulated a cosponsor memo in April and introduced a Senate bill in JuneReps. Jennifer O’Mara (D-Delaware) and Kate Klunk (R-York) circulated a similar cosponsor memo in the House.

Then, in October, Reps. O’Mara and Klunk introduced #FreetheData legislation in the House. 

Coalition Building: A Force for Change

Throughout the year, we built a strong coalition of partners, including workforce organizations, economic development groups, labor organizations, social service agencies, and other important leaders who understand the importance of getting timely data to build successful workforce interventions. 

Next Steps: The Journey Ahead

We still have a lot of work to do to #FreetheData and help our workforce partners, and we are committed to pressing forward next year. We are thankful for our coalition partners who got us this far!