Gain Skills, Credentials In MCCC’s Office Assistant Certificate Program

Blue Bell, Pa.— Building on the success of its fall cohort, the next session of Montgomery County Community College’s (MCCC) Office Assistant Certificate program will begin on May 12. The program—part of the national Job Ready, Willing and Able (JRWA) Initiative—provides built-in job placement assistance and a coach to guide students through the training and certificate completion.

The spring/summer iteration of the Office Assistant Certificate program begins May 12 and runs through Aug. 28. The course is primarily taught online, with optional open labs on Thursdays from noon-3 p.m. at MCCC’s Central Campus, 340 DeKalb Pike, Blue Bell. Students are also required to attend three workshop sessions on May 29, June 12 and Aug. 28 from noon-3 p.m. The cost is $495, which includes instruction, workshops and course textbooks. To learn more or to apply, call 215-461-1468 or email JobTrakPA@mc3.edu.

Students enrolled in the Office Assistant Certificate Program will learn critical computer literacy and other skills expected by employers in business environments. Course modules include Business Software Essentials, Microsoft Word Applications and Modern Office Management.

“Local industry is in search of qualified office assistants,” said Suzanne Holloman, dean of Workforce Development and Continuing Education at MCCC.  “This 135-hour certificate is laser-focused to train individuals who are unemployed for a middle-skills job.”

After completing the certificate, students may pursue the Microsoft Office Specialist certification exam for Microsoft Word 2013. This sought-after credential provides students with marketable skills that will further increase their chances for employment. In addition, students who complete the certificate can apply the courses to the College’s Office Administration Associate in Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree program.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, office and administrative support occupations comprise one of the largest occupation groups in the Commonwealth. The Center for Workforce Information and Analysis projects 105 annual openings in this field in Montgomery County. Additionally, there is a growing need in the Montgomery County Region for general office clerks, with an expected 338 annual openings in the County and an estimated 14,620 total jobs in 2016.

Through JRWA, MCCC joins 17 other community colleges across the country in providing middle-skills training, industry recognized credentials, and access to employment across varying industry sectors for unemployed individuals. The initiative is funded by a three-year grant from the Walmart Foundation and is led by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).

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Gov. Wolf Says Manufacturing Tax Credit Could Boost Pennsylvania Jobs, Industry

Pittsburgh may not be the steel town it once was, with the economy of the state’s second largest city these days tied more to hospitals and higher education than smoke stacks. But manufacturing is still a huge part of Pennsylvania’s economy.

The sector employs more than 571,000 people in the commonwealth — including more than 30,000 in the York-Hanover area alone.

The average compensation for someone who works in manufacturing, not just assembly line workers but plant managers and other executives, is more than $69,000. That’s well above Pennsylvania’s median household income, which was $52,548 in 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

With manufacturing’s above-average wages, new Gov. Tom Wolf has identified increasing the number of manufacturing jobs as one of his top economic priorities.

Read more:

http://www.ydr.com/business/ci_27743500/gov-wolf-says-manufacturing-tax-credit-could-boost

Boston’s Policy On Affordable Housing Inspires Pittsburgh Task Force

The ultra-chic Residences at Mandarin Oriental in Boston’s Back Bay — a development with its own concierge and marble foyers, as well as rents that range from $4,700 to $17,000 a month — has been the province of the rich and powerful since opening in 2008.

But not exclusively.

Thanks to a 15-year-old city policy, teachers, police officers and other modest wage earners live next door to the wealthy at the Mandarin and other luxurious residential developments in Boston.

Because of the city’s inclusionary development policy, the Mandarin houses 10 affordable apartments — comparable in size and quality to the others — with rents ranging from $1,365 to $2,340 a month. The lucky recipients were chosen by lottery.

Read more:

http://www.post-gazette.com/business/development/2015/02/22/Boston-s-policies-on-affordable-housing-inspires-Pittsburgh-leaders/stories/201502220077

Changing Skyline: Subsidized Housing Deal May Benefit Developers More

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You could probably fit every unit of affordable housing being built in Philadelphia today inside one of the fancy glass skyscrapers going up in University City, and still have a couple of floors left over. That’s not because the new towers are so immense, but because the city produces so little subsidized housing for the poor and working class.

It wasn’t always that way. From the 1950s through the Clinton years, the federal government financed thousands of units of affordable housing. Though the results weren’t always well-designed, the programs did at least ensure the poor had places to live. But in the last decade, federal money dried up and cities were left to their own devices. It’s no accident that wage stagnation has become a hot issue as low-cost housing has become harder to find.

So, as with many urban improvements these days, cities have begun to look to the private sector to pick up the slack. The strategy is called “inclusionary housing,” and it involves trading zoning bonuses for apartments.

Developers get to put up taller, denser towers. Cities get a bunch of units in the new buildings that can be rented at below-market rates. Low-wage workers get fabulous apartments with skyline views.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/living/20141017_Changing_Skyline__Subsidized_housing_deal_may_benefit_developers_more.html#TCCsm4dMWl0uHb5b.99

Squeezed In America: The U.S. Middle Class Underperforms Its Peers

Editors note:  A very insightful editorial by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette folks.

A new analysis that shows the U.S. middle class is no longer the world’s richest should alarm more than just those in the nation’s dwindling middle.

Decades-long trends that have shifted the nation’s wealth to the top and widened the gap between rich and poor have undermined democracy. They also have weakened the consumer-driven economy.

No one understood the importance of a healthy middle class better than Henry Ford. In 1914, he more than doubled the wages he paid his workers. The $5, eight-hour workday was a bold strategy to lower employee turnover and enable them to buy Ford cars.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/opinion/editorials/2014/05/03/Squeezed-in-America/stories/201404290020#ixzz30ffKoORh

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Study Showing Area’s Shaky Economy No Surprise

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metro...

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metropolitan Statistical Area in the northeastern part of the of . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Frank Nemeth, of Wilkes-Barre, doesn’t need a study to tell him the region is in rough shape.

Nemeth works at the Main Street Trading Post, a pawn shop south of Public Square, and he said his job has exposed him to the harsh realities of the city’s economy.

“I don’t see any recovery happening,” he said.

Instead, Nemeth said he sees some of the same people everyday — sometimes two or three times — trying to sell their belongings to afford necessities like food and gas.

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/news/1334175/Study-showing-areas-shaky-economy-no-surprise

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Philadelphia’s Future In The Numbers

English: View of Philadelphia City Hall from t...

English: View of Philadelphia City Hall from the corner of Broad and Walnut Streets. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of all the numbers that tell the story of Philadelphia today, one stands out as an unambiguous expression of confidence in the city’s future.

Last year, developers received building permits for 2,815 units of new residential housing, the most approved in a decade. Those units are worth an estimated $465 million, the highest annual amount on record.

Investors appear to be betting that Philadelphia’s population, which rose for the seventh straight year in 2013 to 1,553,165, will keep growing and that many of the new residents, young and old, will be looking for new homes and apartments.

There is some demographic evidence to support this expectation. In recent years, the city has experienced rapid growth in its population of young adults, many of them well-educated and upwardly mobile. In addition, an increasing number of aging baby boomers are leaving the suburbs and moving into the city. And the middle-class population appears to have stabilized after decades of decline.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20140406_Philadelphia_s_future.html#Ukhw32j52iwf8tzl.99

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Pew Report: Philadelphia’s Middle Class Is Shrinking

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Philadelphia middle class, a backbone of economic vitality that once made up the majority of residents in most of the city’s neighborhoods, has declined in steep numbers since 1970, from 59 percent to 42 percent by 2010, according to a report released Monday, the first of its kind.

The precipitous decline of adults within this long-celebrated class occurred widely across the city and most sharply before 2000, sparing only chunks of Far Northeast Philadelphia and Roxborough and smaller pockets elsewhere. Those areas remained majority middle-class as of a few years ago, said the Pew Charitable Trusts, which spearheaded the study.

The data capture what has been sensed and dreaded by policymakers for years: Philadelphia is decidedly poorer than when it was a manufacturing powerhouse, losing even a greater share of higher-taxpaying middle-class residents than the nation as a whole, and failing even to see increases in its upper-class population to match other cities that fared better.

Whether middle-class Philadelphians fell into a lower-income class, moved into the suburbs, or died is not shown by Pew’s analysis, as researchers have found such detailed tracking to be elusive.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20140225_New_Pew_report_shows_city_s_middle-class_shrinking.html#GakidtL6rbcd5xYK.99

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Wealth Gap Is Widest In Some Affluent US Cities

WASHINGTON (AP) – The gap between the wealthy and the poor is most extreme in several of the United States’ most prosperous and largest cities.

The economic divides in Atlanta, San Francisco, Washington, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles are significantly greater than the national average, according to a study released Thursday by the Brookings Institution, the Washington-based think tank. It suggests that many sources of both economic growth and income inequality have co-existed near each other for the past 35 years.

These cities may struggle in the future to provide adequate public schooling, basic municipal services because of a narrow tax base and “may fail to produce housing and neighborhoods accessible to middle-class workers and families,” the study said.

“There’s something of a relationship between economic success and inequality,” said Alan Berube, a senior fellow at Brookings. “These cities are home to some of the highest paying industries and jobs in the country.”

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/homepage/20140220_ap_9abeed9da7e24c51a0a078a9ca8c73b9.html#fRdwGmPM2m6ZEQji.99

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Conference Generates Ideas For Tackling Poverty In Reading

, U.S. Congressman (R-Pennsylvania, 1997-present)

, U.S. Congressman (R-Pennsylvania, 1997-present) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fatherless families, a lack of jobs and school dropout rates contribute to poverty and local economic conditions, U.S. Rep. Joseph R. Pitts said Monday.

“Families with fathers and mothers are the best anti-poverty program,” said the Chester County Republican, whose district includes Reading. “Saying these simple things can land you in all kinds of trouble.”

He was speaking at a conference on economic inequality that he organized at Reading Area Community College.

In an interview afterward, Pitts listed some points raised during the four-hour event that he will pursue.

“We will come up with some projects,” Pitts said.

While some of the 75 political, business and nonprofit leaders who participated agreed with Pitts’ points, several made their own arguments for improving the economy in Reading, where the 2012 poverty rate of 40.5 percent made it the second most impoverished city in the country behind Detroit.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article/20131210/NEWS/312109974/1052#.UqeN0fRDsxI

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Metro Area Food Stamp Use Up 75 Percent In 5 Years

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metro...

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metropolitan Statistical Area in the northeastern part of the of . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Food stamp distribution in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre metro area exploded by 75 percent between 2007 and 2012.

The number of households receiving federal assistance under the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program ballooned to 35,256 in 2012 from 20,195 in 2007, Census Bureau data reveal.

SNAP stamp benefits in 2012 went to 14 percent of the residences in Lackawanna County, 17 percent in Luzerne County and 20 percent in Wyoming County. More than 90,300 people in the metro area participate in the food-stamp program, according to federal data cited by U.S. Sen. Bob Casey’s office.

“Those numbers are staggering,” said Teri Ooms, director of the Institute for Public Policy and Economic Development, a regional research and analysis organization. “This is the eroding of the middle class.”

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/food-stamp-use-up-75-percent-in-5-years-1.1583475

Signs Of Declining Economic Security Widespread

President Barack Obama announces the Economic ...

President Barack Obama announces the Economic Recovery Advisory Board. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WASHINGTON — Four out of five U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.

Survey data exclusive to The Associated Press points to an increasingly globalized U.S. economy, the widening gap between rich and poor and loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the trend.

The findings come as President Barack Obama tries to renew his administration’s emphasis on the economy, saying in recent speeches that his highest priority is to “rebuild ladders of opportunity” and reverse income inequality.

Hardship is particularly on the rise among whites, based on several measures.  Pessimism among that racial group about their families’ economic futures has climbed to the highest point since at least 1987.  In the most recent AP-GfK poll, 63 percent of whites called the economy “poor.”

Read more:  http://www.timesleader.com/news/news/710055/Signs-of-declining-economic-security-widespread

Study: Pittsburgh’s Social Mobility Among Best In U.S.

Locator map of the Greater Pittsburgh metro ar...

Locator map of the Greater Pittsburgh metro area in the western part of the of . Red denotes the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area, and yellow denotes the New Castle Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is included in the Pittsburgh-New Castle CSA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The rags-to-riches, Great Gatsby-esque storyline may be more reality than fiction in the Pittsburgh area, a national study suggests.

Pittsburgh is in the top tier of cities for social mobility, according to a report released this week.  The survey, which incorporated earnings filings from millions of Americans to assess people’s likelihood of moving between income classes, found that Pittsburghers born to parents who make just $30,000 per year typically move further up the income ladder than similar people in any of America’s 50 largest commuter areas except Salt Lake City.

And on a more regional level, Pittsburgh stands out among communities in the Rust Belt for its propensity toward social mobility.

“Pittsburgh does look more like an outlier from the perspective of the general economic situation, from the types of economic shocks that have been hitting that region in the past 20 years,” said Nathaniel Hendren, a Harvard economist and one of the report’s four authors, who hail from Harvard and the University of California, Berkeley, and are affiliated with the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/business/news/study-pittsburghs-social-mobility-among-best-in-us-696470/#ixzz2Zt4OJRJU

U.S. Census Numbers: Allentown Economy Lagging

The PPL Building (seen here in the distance) i...

The PPL Building (seen here in the distance) is the tallest building in Allentown, Pennsylvania. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Syreeta Redcross of Allentown takes care of her five children on her wages at a local logistics company.

The pay is relatively low, so the 28-year-old often has to scrape to afford the basics — like diapers for her kids. She relies on subsidized day care to be able to hold down a job at all.

Redcross stopped by the PA CareerLink Lehigh Valley job fair on Wednesday looking for a better-paying job.

“It’s very challenging,” she said. “It’s a struggle out there.”

Redcross’ struggles are far from unique, according to findings released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Read more:

http://www.mcall.com/news/local/allentown/mc-allentown-census-poverty-20120919,0,1785692.story

US Economic Growth Slowed To 1.5 Percent Rate In Second Quarter

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of just 1.5 percent from April through June, as Americans cut back sharply on spending.  The slowdown in growth adds to worries that the economy could be stalling three years after the recession ended.

The Commerce Department also said Friday that the economy grew a little better than previously thought in the January-March quarter.  It raised its estimate to a 2 percent rate, up from 1.9 percent.

Growth at or below 2 percent isn’t enough to lower the unemployment rate, which was 8.2 percent last month. And most economists don’t expect growth to pick up much in the second half of the year.  Europe’s financial crisis and a looming budget crisis in the U.S. are expected to slow business investment further.

Read more: http://hosted2.ap.org/PASCR/a5050f4ad4f44dafab85bb41a15281cf/Article_2012-07-27-US-Economy-GDP/id-a8fa417340a94237b704b53fa94dd871

Johnstown Fights Blight

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Cambria County

Image via Wikipedia

The City of Johnstown, Cambria County, is a post-industrial community just like Pottstown.  Steel was king along with heavy manufacturing.  Those days are gone and communities have fallen on hard times. 

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.  Johnstown is doing just that.  In an effort to clean up their community and attract middle-income residents, Johnstown has started a program to buy blighted properties, demo them and redevelop the property with a prefabricated home.  These are 3 bedroom, 2.5 bathroom homes that are Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified.  Meaning these homes are energy-efficient.

This program is a joint effort between the Cambria County Redevelopment Authority and the City of Johnstown.  Funding was obtained through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (federal).

They intend to transform the entire South Street neighborhood PLUS they are targeting business development and a business development strategy to bring in new business!

This initial project is only a small dent in Johnstown’s blighted housing stock; however, it’s one house at a time, one block at a time.  And that is just what Johnstown officials intend to do.