Published in the Central Penn Business Journal, September 13, 2016

Jesse McCree recently spoke with officials of a large regional manufacturing company that, due to retirements, had nearly 450 total years of work experience walk out the door in one day.

“That sort of experience is not easily replaced,” McCree noted. “It will take time and resources to ‘up-skill’ their workforce to replace that kind of institutional knowledge.”

Jesse McCree
Jesse McCree is the new CEO of South Central PA Works.

Finding solutions for such issues, and bringing together this region’s employees and jobs, is now the responsibility of the 32-year-old McCree, of Mechanicsburg. He began Aug. 15 as the new CEO of Harrisburg-based South Central PA Works, formerly the South Central Workforce Development Board.

He spoke to the Business Journal about the task at hand:

What is South Central PA Works?

“South Central PA Works is the regional workforce development board that strategically invests in initiatives and services that help make our region economically and socially vibrant for businesses and individuals.

“We invest in training, education and skill-development programs that help South Central’s workers stay competitive, which in turn gives businesses the skilled workforce they need to continue to grow.

“South Central PA Works oversees and invests in the PA CareerLink system, of which there are six locations in our region. The PA CareerLink provides a one-stop resource for job search services, career consultation, training resources and career placement assistance.”

What do you tell people who aren’t sure what a workforce development board does?

“At the end of the day, our work is all about jobs. It’s about helping to re-train and ‘up-skill’ people who are unemployed. It’s about investing in our current workforce to make sure they stay up-to-date with the latest technological changes. It’s about working with Pennsylvania businesses to ensure that they have a pipeline of skilled workers today and in the future.

“Ultimately, the partnerships we build with education, economic development and business partners are all geared toward placing Pennsylvania workers in highly-skilled, well-paying jobs that drive economic growth.”

What are other areas in which you work?

“I also see South Central PA Works as strategically positioned in our community to be a key convener of economic growth and development.

“Because we work closely with job-seekers, employers, economic-development agencies and education institutions, we can help build a productive network of business, economic development and community partners to create a demand-driven opportunity engine for our region.”

What do you see as your main responsibility?

“As stewards of public funds, we have a responsibility to ensure that our investments are spent in the most efficient and effective ways possible.

“I believe our main responsibility is to evaluate the effectiveness of our investments based on the current market conditions. We utilize a lot of labor market data and intelligence that helps us identify the key occupations, industries and sectors that are in-demand for businesses.

“We work to ensure that all of the programs and services we invest in are aligned with the needs of workers and businesses alike.

“For instance, there are some occupations, like industrial machine mechanics, that pay good wages (average salary in South Central PA is around $48,000 a year) and are growing rapidly (around 3 to 5 percent total annual growth).

“Many companies are telling us that they can’t find enough skilled mechanics to keep their production equipment up and running. So this presents a solid opportunity to invest our resources in building a pipeline of skilled workers for good, growing occupations that is meeting a critical supply issues for regional businesses.”

What is the top issue facing your field these days?

“I’ll answer this in a bit of a different way. As I reflect on my new role as CEO, I am reminded about how much energy and enthusiasm there is in workforce development today.

“With the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, the federal legislation that governs much of our work, an increased emphasis at the federal level on demand-driven skills development, and a renewed interest in statewide workforce programs, this is an exciting time for our field.”