YCEA addressing workforce shortage by bridging skill gap

The York County Economic Alliance is looking at all areas that can impact a job seeker’s access to employment as it works to connect local employers with skilled workers.

Written by: Anthony Machcinski
Pushing expungement programs, advocating new approaches to college, and emphasizing apprenticeships are all parts of the York County Economic Alliance's Pathways to Prosperity initiative. (Photos by Paul Chaplin for Our York Media)

While York County companies add hundreds of jobs per year, business nearly halts when there aren’t enough qualified candidates to fill the gaps, says Sully Pinos of the York County Economic Alliance.

The lack of talented individuals to take on these jobs leads to increased costs, loss of bids, and struggling economic stability. As part of the YCEA’s Pathways to Prosperity initiative, the YCEA is taking a multi-faceted approach to filling local jobs and helping businesses grow.

“We’ve focused on workforce development because our county’s prosperity is dependent on it,” says Pinos, the Director of Business Solutions and Innovation for the YCEA. “We want to serve as the convener system to help our region’s employers connect to the job seekers they need to meet their workforce demands and connect those job seekers to training opportunities.”

Addressing the needs of workforce development requires an all-hands-on-deck approach bringing business, education and community to the table. That means looking at some of the barriers people face to find employment, such as helping candidates move past a criminal background, working with colleges to change their approach to education, and fighting stigmas against jobs once seen as dirty and dangerous.

SonJa Holland is a member of the YCEA's Pathways to Prosperity Workforce Committee and is also a talent acquisition coordinator for FedEx. (Photo by Paul Chaplin for Our York Media)


SonJa Holland, a member of the Pathways to Prosperity Workforce Committee, considers her job a personal charge to help others. Once a month, the Talent Acquisition Coordinator for FedEx goes to the York County Prison to talk to those soon to be released.

She does it because she knows a job – any job – can be a life-changer.

“I want to give people access to this company because it is a Fortune 500 company that is worldwide,” Holland says. “It’s a tremendous company to work for, a viable option, and can jumpstart your career.”

Among those she helps are people going through the expungement process – where records of a person’s arrest, charge, or conviction are eliminated.

“There are some things on people’s records that could have been expunged that aren’t because they didn’t have the right resources,” Holland says. “That record then impedes them from getting a good job or going back to school. With the right resources, they have an avenue to start the conversation of expungement and working to pay off fees.”

Places like FedEx that hire expunged employees are beneficial because of the development they can provide, Holland says.

“If you start as a package handler, a high school diploma is not required,” Holland says. “We have tuition reimbursement here. People can work their way up and be a manager here within six months, but it starts with giving people the access.”

Penn State York student Nicole Guise is part of the The Graham Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, which provides students with the soft skills they need to be successful after college. (Photo by Paul Chaplin for Our York Media)


There was a short time where Nicole Guise felt nervous about the presentation her and her teammates were about to give.

Guise, then a freshman at Penn State York, was part of a five-person team pitching Startin’ Gardens – a gardening service that would provide small raised beds and maintenance to individuals who didn’t have the time or skill for gardening.

The nervousness didn’t last long. As the presentation began, the skills she learned at The Graham Center for Entrepreneurial Studies kicked in. In April 2018, Startin’ Gardens was the winner of The Graham Center’s 2018 Startup Challenge.

“We had this idea that filled a need and a want for our service in the community,” Guise says. “After winning the contest, two of my team members formed an LLC.”

Guise became involved in The Graham Center as a freshman in Fall 2017.

“The Graham Center is a program for Penn State York students that focuses on providing students with the skills they need to be successful after college,” Nicole says. “They focus on leadership and provide opportunities to practice entrepreneurship.”

“Some work environments have preconceived ideas about Millennials that they are lazy, and that’s something my generation has to overcome.

Nicole Guise Penn State York student

While the center teaches the main aspects of leadership and provides experience for students, it also helps students develop the finer aspects of the business world – like how to hand someone your business card or proper dinner etiquette.

“I think they’re important because the soft skills are how we connect with people,” Nicole says. “It comes down to the soft skills when you’re hired for a position. That could be the decisionmaker between you and another candidate.”

Guise is currently studying Agricultural Education and Extension at Penn State but is looking to use her newly acquired skills to break a stigma about her generation.

“Some work environments have preconceived ideas about Millennials that they are lazy, and that’s something my generation has to overcome,” Guise says. “The Graham Center is showing us how to overcome that through their classwork, through professionalism, and how they’re training students on the finer skills.”

Tucker Senft enrolled in Kinsley’s four-year apprenticeship for carpentry after graduating from Susquehannock High School in 2018. (Photo by Paul Chaplin for Our York Media)


Tucker Senft was a junior at Susquehannock High School when he took a shop class. He created everything from a gun rack to a dresser, but what he loved most was the teamwork.

“There was this environment where everyone came together to create one thing,” Senft says. “I knew right then this is what I wanted to make my career.”

Senft enrolled in Kinsley Construction’s pre-apprenticeship program his senior year. The program is designed for high school seniors to gain hands-on experience in construction and learn about job opportunities in the industry and at Kinsley.

When he graduated in 2018, Senft decided to take the next step and enroll in Kinsley’s four-year apprenticeship for carpentry.

“You’re getting paid to learn everything you’re learning as an apprentice,” Senft says. “It gives people the opportunity to find out if this is what they want to do without the expenses associated with college.”

Even with just a year of the program under his belt, Senft’s craftsmanship is on display across job sites in central Pennsylvania and northern Maryland. The biggest thrill of the job comes from seeing the finished product.

“You’re not just leaving the job – you’re leaving with a sense of accomplishment,” Senft says. “For years to come, I can drive by a house or a job site and say to my friends or my children, ‘I helped build that.’”

Story paid for by York County Economic Alliance

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