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Pennsylvania Deploys Virtual Trainings to Build IT Workforce

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry recently launched SkillUp PA, a free virtual job training program that offers online training to bolster the commonwealth’s information technology workforce.

Shutterstock/Mark Agnor
The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry virtual job training program, called SkillUp PA, is looking to bolster the commonwealth’s workforce through free online trainings in information technology, digital literacy and other areas.

Government entities in several states have been searching for innovative ways to fill gaps in the IT workforce in recent years, all approaching the gap differently. Maryland, as one example, focused on building partnerships, while another, Indiana, sought to fill the gap through a digital platform.

Pennsylvania's statewide initiative, announced in August, will use federal funding from the Wagner-Peyser program. A total of $2.64 million will be used for the program in the next three years, according to the release.

Labor and Industry Deputy Secretary for Workforce Development Sheila Ireland said that one reason the program came to fruition was to combat the digital divide, which widened as the pandemic pushed government services online.

She cited an Urban Institute study of Philadelphia, which found 67 percent of residents were not digitally literate. It was decided that the agency was best positioned to provide skills training for industry certifications and digital skills training to provide a foundation for those who need it.

“For us, SkillUp is the perfect solution that does all of the above,” she said of the online portal.

In terms of digital skills that Pennsylvanians need, Ireland said knowledge of Microsoft Excel is the top in-demand skill. General digital literacy skills, like understanding how to use necessary hardware and software, follow close behind.

The program also provides online training for the IT workforce, as well as other subject areas like marketing and accounting.

As for the IT workforce, Ireland said the availability of a statewide platform can offer buildable skills to help individuals get the certifications they need in addition to offering baseline trainings for those interested in exploring the industry.

While she said the program will not necessarily replace traditional college education, it offers an option to bridge the divide for people who cannot afford a college or university program.

“What I like about the platform is that you can use it in whatever way you want,” Ireland said. “If you want to use it as a support refresher introduction to it, feel free to do so. If you want to use it as an exploratory tool to understand whether or not this is really for you, feel free to do so.”

The platform was built by Metrix Learning, which is similarly helping build workforces in 17 other states. Ireland credited the company's experience working with other states for the smooth implementation of SkillUp PA.

Ireland said that Metrix was chosen in part for its ability to customize offerings with an understanding of the needs of Pennsylvania’s 23 local workforce development boards.

“What we’re doing, specifically, is aligning it to the local job market for each one of those local workforce development boards,” Ireland explained. “We wanted to make sure that you understood what training would help you get employment [in your area], because at the end of the day, that is what we’re here for: to help connect you to work.”

The program was first launched in Lancaster and Lackawanna counties before being launched statewide.

Ireland noted that those that have participated in Lancaster — both employers and job seekers — have provided positive feedback about the platform.

To participate in the courses, Pennsylvanians can register with PA CareerLink, which is the commonwealth’s digital center for career-related resources.
Julia Edinger is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Toledo and has since worked in publishing and media. She's currently located in Southern California.