This column was submitted to LebTown. Read our submission policy here.

Now more than ever, accessible, and affordable workforce training is the cornerstone of addressing poverty, unemployment, and underemployment in our communities. With May 1 being National Skilled Trades Day, it’s a great reminder to recognize the critical need for creating more opportunities for skilled training, especially in Pennsylvania’s third-class cities like Lebanon.

According to the U.S. Census, Black and Hispanic populations are growing significantly across the Central Pennsylvania region. Between 2010 and 2020, Dauphin County saw a 66% increase in Hispanic and 5% increase in Black populations, followed by Lebanon with 63% and 12%, York with 61% and 15%, Berks with 42% and 9%, and Lancaster with 36% and 17%, respectively. Collectively, this accounts for hundreds of thousands of people who also account for a disproportionately high level of unemployment and underemployment, most commonly linked to a lack of education and skilled training. 

In Pennsylvania, more than a quarter of both Hispanics and Blacks are living in poverty, with 11.9% of Hispanics and 13.7% of Blacks unemployed. And those numbers are even higher in counties with third-class cities. Compare this to the 5.4% unemployment rate for whites. The problem is amplified by the fact that 28.35% of Hispanics and 13.7% of Blacks in Pennsylvania don’t have a high school diploma, making it even more difficult to obtain family sustaining jobs that offer livable wages and related benefits. 

Many non-profit organizations and educational institutions are making strides in addressing this issue head on. Regionally, the Tec Centro Network already has established workforce training locations in Berks, Lancaster (home to two centers), Lebanon, and York Counties, with another soon to be added to Dauphin. Each of the six locations are a self-governed 501(c)3 organization with its own local board.  

In Lebanon, the WEPA Empowerment Center, incorporated in 2021, established its Education and Workforce Training Division, Tec Centro Lebanon in August of 2023.  Located in the business district of Lebanon at 9 South 9th Street, Tec Centro Lebanon is strategically located and accessible to community members seeking services and plans are underway for future allied health and skilled trades training locally. 

So as the nation takes a day to recognize the value of skilled trades, the solution to this growing problem will take much more than a single day, or single initiative to evoke meaningful change. It will require a collaborative ecosystem between businesses, government, non-profits and educational institutions, working together to provide opportunities and lift up our communities. The Tec Centro Workforce Network has created a valuable blueprint for how communities can effectively come together to support a skilled workforce.

But to grow this movement, it will require a collaborative effort of public and private partnerships and funding.

Whether you are a business owner, community leader, elected official, or someone who stands to benefit from workforce training services, you have the power to be an advocate.

Make your voice heard, share your ideas, and be an active part of finding more solutions for workforce training in our Commonwealth.

The future of our community and economy depends on it! 

Kay Litman is the Executive Director of Tec Centro Lebanon, which is one of six locations within the Tec Centro Workforce Network serving five counties including Berks, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon, and York. The collective goal of the Network is to serve disproportionately disadvantaged populations in third-class cities that have a heavy concentration of residents that face barriers related to bilingual education, skills training, and job placement. By working to proactively address these barriers, the Network provides the tools and opportunity for a way out of poverty. Learn more by visiting or

Want to submit your own column?
Learn more here.

Something went wrong. Please refresh the page and/or try again.