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Connect Learn

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Connect Learn is designed to strengthen the collaborative effort among our academic institutions and business community through connecting our local students to the workforce and career exploration resources available in NEPA. Projects featured include our workforce and economic development-related pilot programs, such as: the NEPA Works Project (Coding the Coal Region; Reimagining our Workforce), Project PIVOT, and Luzerne Learns to Work.

Luzerne Learns to Work

Luzerne Learns to Work Logo

Launched in 2023, Luzerne Learns to Work (LLW), is an innovative educational program that provides 11th and 12th-grade Luzerne County students with a process and platform to explore career pathways, workforce development tools, and local industry career pipelines. Through the use of this program, students are empowered to explore potential career pathways through free access to LinkedIn Learning video courses, Metrix Learning video courses, Luzerne County Library courses, various local workforce and career development tools, opportunities with local higher education institutions, and work-based learning experiences with local companies. Seniors who complete the program have the opportunity to apply for a scholarship to contribute toward furthering their education at a Luzerne County-based institution.

Due to outdated curriculum and resource models, and exacerbated by COVID-19, school districts struggled to present aligned career pathways to students, leading to a significant loss of learning and resource connection as students were unaware of local opportunities. As they struggled to guide students on local career pathways, it limited student exposure to the current trends in the job market and continued the vicious cycle of brain drain the region has been experiencing for years. This problem was magnified as industries and local small businesses struggled to maintain a qualified workforce – showing the strained link between education and industry.

In partnership with the Luzerne Intermediate Unit 18 and The Institute for Public Policy and Economic Development, and in collaboration with PA CareerLink Luzerne County, the Luzerne/Schuylkill Workforce Investment Board, and various career exploration and workforce development agencies in NEPA, Luzerne Learns to Work provides school districts with an enhanced and integrative process, platform, and career development curriculum to introduce career exploration, allowing students to navigate pathways online through LinkedIn Learning and Metrix Learning and linking education and industry by providing students with work-based learning opportunities. Making these experiences a bigger part of career exploration will build a pipeline of talent filtered into local industries, ensure that students get early exposure to our community, and produce more qualified talent retained to fill jobs in our most in-demand industries.

LLW addresses the impact of learning loss by offering career exploration in a virtual, flexible platform, aligning resources that help streamline students into local opportunities. After taking a career assessment, students access 22,000+ courses available on LinkedIn Learning and Metrix Learning to build in-demand skills, showcase their competencies, connect with leaders in those fields, and apply their skills in a work-based learning experience, linking academic and business sectors in a new and creative way.

Business Work-Based Learning Experience Training

Luzerne Learns to Work is a program that connects 11th and 12th-grade students with work-based learning experiences to help prepare them for careers within industry sectors within Luzerne County. Our goal is to link the students to opportunities available to them at businesses in our local community. Participation from our local businesses is crucial in connecting our students to opportunities right here in our community. Through these experiences, businesses will have a window to the next generation of talent, and their future workforce!
The images below explain how to get started! 
Luzerne Learns to Work Registration 1
Luzerne Learns to Work Registration 2
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Connect Intern Program

The Intern program is an online hub designed to better connect local students to internship opportunities in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Intern resources will connect businesses with contacts for all of the local colleges and technical institutions in the Northeastern Pennsylvania area. Businesses can connect with the Career Services departments of local institutions and scout talent. Resources also include toolkits and content for small businesses looking to develop an internship program, designed to connect businesses with the latest and greatest practices for creating a valuable internship experience for their interns and their business.

Learn More About Hosting An Intern Through the Webinars Below!

WBC Presents: How to Post and Host a Successful Internship

The Ins and Outs of Internships - Hosted by Penn State Wilkes-Barre

Economic Development Pilot Programs

Connect’s economic development pilot programs aim to move the needle on various regional social, economic, and workforce-related issues. Pilots are launched to test unique solution sets to those issues, determine them to be viable (or unviable) solutions, and forge pathways for long-term sustainability and scalability for continued impact. Our pilot programs to date include Project PIVOT, which became what is now know as the Luzerne Learns to Work Program, described above; NEPA Works; and Connect Inclusive. You can find more information on them below!

Project PIVOT

Project Pivot Logo

Project PIVOT, launched in February 2022, is a unique, collaborative program created and launched by Connect that aims to provide accelerated workforce training and upskilling opportunities for Luzerne County workers aligning with the historic and seismic industry shifts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Participants of this pilot program gained free access to 17,000+ online LinkedIn Learning courses to develop themselves professionally and upskill in the careers and fields of their choice.

Since that February, 36 businesses and institutions, and more than 9,700 Luzerne County residents, workers, job seekers, and students, have received free LinkedIn Learning licenses through the program and are using them to build the skills needed to succeed in their careers and roles. As we closed out this program in October 2022, we were able to see how impactful this initiative has been in bringing on-demand training and exploratory content to the Luzerne County population and allowing our local industries to address any educational gaps their team may be experiencing and take their current workforce to the next level in their skillset.

As we concluded Project PIVOT, we used the framework of this program as a springboard to develop a continuing initiative with the Luzerne Intermediate Unit 18 to provide Luzerne County students with a process and platform to explore career pathways and local industry career pipelines – creating a long-term talent pipeline and workforce management solution, known as Luzerne Learns to Work.

NEPA Works

NEPA Works Graphic

In 2020, Connect launched its first workforce development program: NEPA Works. NEPA Works was a 12-month pilot program that enhanced the connectivity of our current workforce system, address skills gaps, and get displaced workers back to work in Northeastern PA. The program was designed in partnership with the PA Department of Community and Economic Development and funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission. The NEPA Works pilot program consisted of two components: Reimagining our Workforce and Coding the Coal Region. Reimagining our Workforce featured a partnership between Connect and local workforce providers in Luzerne County, with a goal to increase user activity through an aggressive marketing campaign and to enhance the community process between job seekers and employers through the integration of a technology-focused communication strategy. Coding the Coal Region was a non-traditional approach that addressed the skills gaps in the computer programming industry by instituting both short and long-term solutions to develop a strong, vibrant, and skilled workforce in Northeast PA.

By the conclusion of the Coding the Coal Region pilot, the program was proven to have elevated students’ knowledge on the subject matter and their interest in computer science careers. Based on feedback analyzed by our tracking partner, the Institute, the program had a positive influence on the students to help them have a better understanding of STEM concepts and expand mastery of core concepts. Both students and parents have indicated that they would be interested in continuing these courses down the line, and, as such, the Institute in their independent evaluation recommended that the program be continued and expanded to a wider geographic region in the future.

In evaluating the successes of the program, we feel that we were effective in increasing student interest in computer science-related fields. This newfound interest that has been fostered is the start of a talent pipeline of computer programmers in NEPA who will, down the line, be able to funnel into the high-demand positions that need to be filled at the local level. We were also successful in removing barriers to access throughout the program to maximize participation – cost, device access, and internet access among others. As a whole, we feel that we were successful in contributing to the much larger conversation of education access in schools; while many local school districts lack robust computer programming curriculum and technology in their standard K-12 offerings, the Coding the Coal Region program made them available to local students.

We were successful in establishing a sustainable framework for this program and securing a collaborative partnership for a continuing program to be launched long-term. As we remain involved in an advisory and supporting capacity, Penn State Wilkes-Barre and Junior Achievement of NEPA will not only improve and expand this program, but also use their advanced skillsets, world-class instruction, and broad community relations to take the program to new heights in Keystone Coding and Careers –introducing STEAM curriculum, entrepreneurial development, and career exploration at the K-12 level and making them more accessible to NEPA students than ever before.

Likewise, through our Reimagining our Workforce program, our local PA CareerLink is reported to be expanding their communication initiatives and campaigns using our text-based strategy and using it as a way to make their services more accessible to job seekers and employers all across their service area.

By the conclusion of the Reimagining our Workforce pilot, the program was proven to be effective in bridging the communication gap we see in the public workforce system. After a year of activity, the CareerLink team has seen tremendous success in growing their texting campaigns and better connecting and engaging with their job seekers. To date, there have been 685 subscribers that have opted into the messaging platform. In this time, the CareerLink team has sent more than 55,000 messages to their subscribers through the platform. Each of those 55,000 touchpoints reinforces the engagement that PA CareerLink® has been seeing from local job seekers and speaks to this program’s ability to bridge the communication gap we see in workforce placement.

Connect Inclusive

Connect Inclusive logo

The Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business & Industry launched Connect Inclusive in October 2022, in partnership with The Institute for Public Policy and Economic Development and the Wilkes University Small Business Development Center, to address systemic and historical barriers to entrepreneurship and business growth that individuals from minority communities experience by providing accessible and inclusive resources that provide them with all stages of business education and technical resources, to start-up or continue to grow their business. Connect Inclusive addresses the needs of minority-owned in Luzerne County. The program will leverage and build upon our existing Connect business assistance program, to provide much-needed support services specifically tailored to the needs of these businesses in our community.

Program efforts will consist of extensive outreach into disenfranchised communities, financial education consultations, direct assistance, and engagement in various existing Connect and Chamber resources, such as our enhanced HONOR program for veterans, our DEI mentorship program for diverse businesses, and our Women’s Entrepreneurial Network. Through this initiative, we will also be establishing the Diversity LC Partnership program, which is aimed at bringing together DBEs and Luzerne County’s largest buying organizations to create sustainable supply chain systems in our community.

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