Program that provides free training for welders to expand

Johnstown Area Regional Industries President and CEO Linda Thomson discusses a $150,000 grant received through the Pennsylvania Manufacturing Training-to-Career Grant program during a press conference at the Hiram G. Andrews Center on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018. Behind her (from left) are Jill Moriconi, director of Hiram G. Andrews Center; Debi Balog, JARI’s director of workforce development; and Karen Bilchak, director of education, Commonwealth Technical Institute at Hiram G. Andrews Center.

A roundtable discussion to address child care needs across the region will be held on March 26 by JARI and The Learning Lamp.

The session will begin at 8:30 a.m. at Pennsylvania Highlands Community College’s Richland campus, room A142 in the Workforce Education Center. Event organizers say the purpose of the event is to talk with employers who are experiencing worker absenteeism due to child care issues.

“Child care isn’t always factored in when you talk about workforce development,” said Debra Balog, JARI’s Director of Workforce Development. “Child care is a workforce development issue because we have employees who are wanting to work full-time, but child care issues create a barrier for them.”

According to statistics provided by the Early Care and Learning Council, American companies lose $3 billion annually due to child care related absences. Forty-five percent of working parents miss at least one day of work every six months because of a breakdown in child care. Employer-sponsored child care reduces employee absences by 20 to 30 percent and reduces employee turnover by 37 to 60 percent.

Eighty-five percent of employers report that providing child care services improves employee recruitment, and 49 percent of employers said that employer-sponsored child care boosted employee productivity.

“Basically, what we want to do is hear from local employers,” said Leah Spangler, CEO of The Learning Lamp. “It doesn’t matter what type of employer they are. We want to get a sense of what the workforce in the region needs because, quite frankly, people can’t go to work if they don’t have someone to take care of their children.”

Spangler noted how days off for students due to inclement weather can quickly become a challenge for working parents. 

“We actually have a program that focuses on that,” she said. “It’s called ‘Kids Day Out,’ and the program runs at the Greater Johnstown Career and Technology Center. You can bring your children there for drop-off care only on that day.

“That’s an excellent example of the types of challenges workers face. If their existing child care program is closed for the day or if school is closed for the day and they have to go to work, but they don’t have family nearby, what do they do with their children? These are the types of things that we are trying to address.”

The event organizers are now inviting local employers, social service agencies, and local government officials to attend the roundtable discussion. For more information or to register, contact Balog via email at

Ronald Fisher is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @FisherSince_82.

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