Last July, Pennsylvania passed a law that created the Keystone Works program. Under this initiative, unemployed individuals can receive free job training with an employer while continuing to receive unemployment compensation benefits. Although this program is only in its beginning stages, Keystone Works is already proving to be a very successful program that not only benefits unemployed workers, but also businesses and the state.
Keystone Works trainings are for open positions in high priority occupations (HPOs), as determined by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry, which are in demand by employers, usually require higher level skills and are likely to provide family-sustaining wages. These HPO companies may train an employee risk-free for up to 24 hours a week for eight weeks while the resident still receives unemployment benefits. At the conclusion of the training, if a company decides to hire the individual, the business is eligible for a monetary incentive of $375 every four weeks the individual remains employed full-time for a maximum total of $1,500. If a company decides not to hire a worker after the eight-week training course, that person still walks away with nearly 200 hours of training for a new type of job opportunity.
This initiative is a win for citizens and businesses alike. Unemployed individuals not only get training in a new employment field, but also possible job opportunities; and the Keystone Works business gets a trial run on what kind of employee perspective they have as well as a monetary incentive to hire the individual.
It is estimated that 2,000 residents will be trained this year under the Keystone Works program. The state has set aside $2.4 million in anticipation of businesses hiring unemployed workers, which is the same amount Pennsylvania expects to save by having fewer people collecting unemployment benefits.
I supported the measure because we need to support programs to get people back into the workforce. Keystone Works connects people to the industries where there is a clear need for qualified workers as well as provides businesses an advantage of having extra hands to help out during a workforce shortage.
For more information on which businesses in our area have training opportunities available or if you are a company that would like to participate in the Keystone Works program, please visit http://www.dli.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1252569&mode=2.
Senator Wayne D. Fontana
42nd Senatorial District