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Free career training available to Pennsylvania’s low-wage earners


A main barrier people face in getting better-paying jobs is mental, an employment specialist said.

“If you are open to some of the possibilities and you’re willing to apply yourself, there are opportunities out there,” said Rick O’Domes, manager of PA CareerLink Alle-Kiski.

His office helps people obtain high school equivalency diplomas, find their first jobs or add skills that help them find new jobs.

“People can come into the CareerLink and find out,” O’Domes said. “They just need to ask.”

The state has 58 CareerLink offices, which also are known as one-stop job offices, said Eileen Cipriani, the deputy secretary of Labor and Industry in charge of workforce devel­opment.

“We have a lot of workshops where you can improve your skills: improve computer skills, financial literacy skills,” she said.

All services are free and can help people find jobs, get promotions or find better jobs, she said.

“What we hear from a lot of businesses right now is that they’re looking for individuals in middle-skill jobs,” she said. These are jobs that require some kind of post-secondary education but not necessarily a degree, she said. Examples include forklift drivers and nurse assistants.

Pennsylvania also has more than 700 apprenticeship programs across the state with employers in traditional apprentice fields such as building trades and construction as well as nontraditional fields like manufacturing and health care, she said.

They allow people to obtain skills while earning a paycheck. At the end, “you’re making a good family-sustaining wage, and you generally didn’t incur any debt in the process,” Cipriani said.

For dislocated workers and veterans, there are individual training funds that can provide up to $4,500 for programs that take less than a year and $6,000 if they take a year or more.

Some of the short-term programs include training for welders, machinists and CDL drivers, O’Domes said.

“All of those, depending on what you’re willing to do, have the potential for a better-paying job,” he said. “There is always a need for truck drivers. There is always a need for machinists — we can’t fill those slots. There’s almost always a need for welders.”

About 18,000 people contact the Alle-Kiski office each year for everything from job searches and training to resume writing. The last service can be important for people trying to get a better job, Cipriani said.

“A lot of times, workers actually have the skills they need,” she said.

The case managers help them translate those skills into the words typically used on resumes, so employers know the applicant has the skills they’re looking for, she said.

PA Workforce Development Association