On Friday, April 28, Senator Scott Martin met with the Berks Latino Workforce Development Corporation (BLWDC), also known as Tec Centro Berks, and business and community leaders to discuss the importance of workforce development within the region. About 30 guests representing a cross-section of educators, community activists, nonprofits, CEOs, and philanthropic leaders took part in an engaging discussion with the Senator. (Image L to R: John Weidenhammer – Weidenhammer, CEO; Lizette Epps – Alvernia University, Executive Director of Financial Services & Internal Operations; Dayana Blandon – Alpek Polyester, Human Resources Manager; Jonathan Encarnacion – UPMC, Senior Director; Karen Rightmire – Wyomissing Foundation, Senior Strategy Officer; Violet Emory – Tec Centro Berks, Executive Director)
A broad range of important issues were brought to the table including barriers that disproportionately impact the working poor, the need for competitive wages, gas tax, and increasing ease and efficiency and licensing. Senator Martin affirmed his commitment to supporting workforce development programs in Berks County. He emphasized making it a priority to prepare youth in math and science, increase the high school graduation rate, and create more accessible alternatives to higher education that are not just four-year college degrees He also acknowledged that state regulations create hurdles for professionals to work in PA.
“We need to make our state and our region a magnet for jobs and investment, and that starts with giving people the opportunity to train for family-sustaining jobs close to home. Tec Centro is a great example of how we can support workforce development locally and create real opportunities to help people get an education here, find a job here, and build a better life here. I appreciated the chance to learn more about the programs Tec Centro Berks offers and have a broader discussion on how we can achieve these goals together,” remarked Senator Martin.
Reading is Pennsylvania’s third poorest city with an unemployment rate of the Reading SMSA of 4.8%. The relatively low unemployment rate compared to the high level of poverty points to a severe problem of underemployment. This is a problem that Tec Centro Berks seeks to address by upgrading the education and job skill levels of low-income Hispanics in the area.
A variety of workforce training programs are provided out of the main facility located at 450 6th Street in Reading. The facility is strategically located to provide easy access to the Hispanic population which lives in the City of Reading and is becoming a hub of the community for employment services and training resources. In working with collaborative partners, the organization provides immediately applicable workforce training that positions students toward jobs that pay a life-sustaining wage with benefits and reasonable work hours. With the continued support of private and public partnerships, Tec Centro Berks will continue to increase its program offerings to educate, upskill, and train residents in Berks County, regardless of age, background, or ability to pay.
“I’m grateful to Senator Martin for taking the time to listen to our concerns and answer our questions,” said Jonathan Encarnacion Chair for the Berks Latino Workforce Development Corporation (Tec Centro Berks). “It’s important for us to feel heard and know that our voices matter.”
Tec Centro Berks exists to serve low to moderate-income individuals by offering multi-pronged, state-of-the-art services that provide education and skills training to those who are unemployed, under-employed, and families living in poverty. The center collaborates with area community colleges and training programs to provide skill training that leads to careers in high-demand areas, including allied health occupations, construction trades, culinary arts, commercial and industrial building maintenance, and customer service representatives. All participants receive career counseling and placement assistance. Additionally, the center’s employment case management can be used by anyone seeking employment, regardless of current employment status. More information can be found by visiting: https://blwdc.org.