Erie Chamber Blog
Friday November 8,  2019

Community College: The Missing Link to Transform Our Community

A community college with a state of the art workforce development curriculum and instructors is the missing link in the effort to transform our community.

Our businesses are demanding an effective workforce development system to enable them to grow in Erie.  Nearly one quarter of our workforce is 55 or older, and we simply do not have the trained talent to fill the void left by our aging workforce. 

Erie is at a stark disadvantage compared to other communities where there is an effective community college engaged with local industry and employers.  Strategic businesses choose to relocate or expand their operations to regions with a highly trained workforce.  These communities almost always include a robust community college system.  Erie is simply not in a position to grow and attract new businesses today.    

In our community, labor force participation rates are falling at rates far exceeding state and national trends, which is a strong deterrent for businesses looking to locate their operations in Erie.  From 2012 through 2018, the labor force participation rate in the county fell 3.3%, whereas the rate dropped by only 0.4% in Pennsylvania and 0.6% nationally.[1]

There are many opportunities to grow and develop local talent for our competitive industries like plastics manufacturing, electrical equipment manufacturing, metal fabrication and metal products, and research and development in engineering and life sciences.  A community college with a strong presence and physical location in Erie County is critical to seizing these opportunities and to transforming our community. 

The Erie Regional Chamber & Growth Partnership stands with our community leaders who are prioritizing the need to bring a solution for a skills-based community college that offers training in trades and technical education.  It is imperative that we take control of this situation now. We cannot wait any longer. Our business community needs a solution like the community college to turn our trajectory of decline into a story of economic growth and vitality. 

 What’s the Latest?

October 28 – Governor Wolf writes two letters in support of the Erie Community College. 

October 29 - A Special Committee of the State Board of Education met to hear the findings of the State Board of Education regarding the County’s Application and criteria to be considered for a Community College Designation.  

November 13 and 14 – The full state board of education will be meeting to hear recommendations from this Special Committee and determine whether to vote on the application.  The Board may opt to table the vote until further meetings. 

Budget Process  - Should the State Board of Education vote to approve a Community College Designation in Erie County, there will need to be a strong advocacy effort to appropriate funds for the line item in the state budget.

Board of Trustee Designation – Should the State Board of Education vote to approve a Community College designation for Erie County, the County will have sixty (60) days to appoint a Board of Trustees.  The Board of Trustees is a 9 member board.  The County Executive will have two appointments, and each County Council member will have one appointment. 


How Can you Get Involved?

 Contact your legislators to share your support for a Community College Designation.


[1] Garner Economics:  A Competitive Realities Report & Target Industry Strategy for Erie County, Pennsylvania, 2019



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