Morning Must Reads: Transit Cuts and Job Training In Its Many Forms

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports there will be a hearing today on the fare increases and service cuts facing the Port Authority of Allegheny County.

Financial problems are nothing new for the Port Authority; nor are public hearings on proposed fare increases and service reductions, like the one scheduled today at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center...

The agency has pinned its hopes on recommendations by the state's Transportation Funding Advisory Commission in August. The panel, appointed by Gov. Tom Corbett, issued a proposal to raise as much as $2.7 billion in new revenue for highways, bridges and public transit. But Mr. Corbett has yet to embrace the plan and his spokesman has suggested that Port Authority funding is a local rather than state problem.

The July 1 fare increase is likely to occur regardless of whether the state comes up with additional funding. In addition to the 25-cent base fare increase, it would add 50 cents to a two-zone trip, making it $3.25. It would be the third fare increase in five years.

The service cut would eliminate 46 of the remaining 102 routes and reduce the frequency of trips on the others. It would be the third reduction in six years and leave the region with less than half of the service that existed before the cuts.

A 15 percent reduction last March caused severe overcrowding on some routes, and riders still get passed by buses that are filled to capacity.

The Patriot-News reports that offsetting proposed cuts in state support for higher education would require a 9% increase in tuition at state-owned universities.

[West Chester University student Leonard] Altieri joined system Chancellor John Cavanaugh and three college presidents in making a case for sparing the system from an $82.5 million cut that Corbett is proposing to a mostly sympathetic Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday.

Coming on the heels of the loss of federal stimulus aid and a budgetary freeze, Cavanaugh said if the system’s state aid sinks to $330.2 million next year, that will result in a loss of $192.5 million within an 18-month span...

Every 1 percent increase in tuition brings in $9 million, so the proposed cut would translate to about a 9 percent, or $560, increase on this year’s $6,240 yearly rate. But Cavanaugh assured the system’s board would not force students to bear the full burden of the state funding cut.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports on efforts in Bucks and Montgomery counties to train skilled workers in the manufacturing sector. Improving the competitiveness of the manufacturing sector hinges critically on training. 

That said, note that both the employers in this article are complaining in particular that they are having difficulty filling night shifts or jobs with a 55-hour workweek. Are those problems indicative of a skill shortage, or have manufacturers in Bucks and Montgomery been spoiled by the recession and forgotten about the concept of compensating differentials? If you have trouble filling skilled job openings that have undesirable working conditions, the most effective strategy to fill those positions is to raise the pay for those positions.

Bucks and Montgomery County manufacturers are meeting Wednesday morning to talk about a key issue — after years of declines in manufacturing employment, they are facing looming shortages of highly skilled workers...

[Lisa] Christman doesn't have to walk far from her office at K'nex to the factory floor, where injection molding machines spit out the brightly colored rods and connectors that combine to create construction-toy roller coasters and Ferris wheels.

From her vantage point, she can see some of her company's most important employees — the 18 toolmakers who create the molds that are the heart of the operation. A third of them, she said, are within 10 years of retirement. Experienced toolmakers are hard to find and "a toolmaker takes 10 years to become proficient."...

On the agenda are discussions of how to engage area trade schools to build a talent pipeline and a review of existing training funding and availability through government workforce investment boards and community colleges...

K'nex toolmakers earn between $18 and $30 an hour, and must work 55 hours weekly. Even the lowest paid earns more than $1,100 a week with overtime...

"Recruiting for the third shift is impossible," [Fiber-Line Inc. human resources manager Dawn Thompson] said. She's looking for basic manufacturing workers, who will earn $13 an hour, more for the night shift. Last year, she hired 33 entry-level machine operators.

In some great training news, the District 1199C Training and Upgrading Fund has received a $3 million grant to retrain long-term unemployed workers for good jobs in health care.

The U.S. and Pennsylvania Departments of Labor awarded a $3 million grant to the District 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund for its new health information mobility program.

The grant will be used by the Philadelphia health-care workers union’s training fund officials to lead a tri-state coalition of health-care employers, academic organizations and work force development agencies in retraining 142 long-term unemployed workers for nursing and health information positions.

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