New Castle News

February 25, 2014

Oh-Penn fosters jobs, training on regional basis

Debbie Wachter
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Jobs and strengthening ties between Ohio and Pennsylvania manufacturing regions are on the minds of community planners.

Members of the Northwest Regional Commission and the Southwest Regional Commission exchanged ideas and information Friday in a joint meeting and forum at Westminster College’s McKelvey Center.

Sam Gianetti, executive director, and Eric Karmecy, project director, both of the west Central Job Partnership, detailed the Oh-Penn Interstate Region Workforce Collaborative, an initiative to stimulate jobs and job and career training in the two-state area that includes Columbiana, Mahoning, and Trumbull counties in Ohio and Lawrence and Mercer counties in Pennsylvania.

“There is this line. It’s a state line. I never went across it, but the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 talked about the possibility of interstate regions,” Giannetti said, “which gave the opportunity to do some innovative things.”

In 2009, the five counties joined as the first officially recognized interstate workforce region in the nation, he said.

“The branding, Oh-Penn, was extremely important,” he said, and with a Walmart foundation grant, the group published a magazine that highlights industry, manufacturing and the workforces in the area.

The Oh-Penn initiative initially garnered a $6 million workforce Investment Center Grant to foster the promotion of job growth in the five-county region, Gianetti said.

“We had put together a competitive proposal for the three-year grant,” Karmecy said, and in June of 2012, the U.S. Department of Labor regional innovation grant recipients were announced. Oh-Penn was one of 26 grantees nationally.

The goals were to build a strong cooperative to increase cross-border workforce development strategies by aligning services and developing clear career pathways, Gianetti said.

Karmecy explained the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition and the Industry Partners of Lawrence and Mercer Counties partnered with Ohio and Pennsylvania manufacturers for a workforce summit, held Oct. 31 to increase the manufacturing skilled workforce in the region.

Oh-Penn is led by a “competitiveness council” which includes members of private sector business, economic development, educational, labor and workforce development.

The goal is to develop a focused dialogue with key businesses to obtain information about industry needs and predict trends, and to identify and implement a career-readiness network that allows jobseekers and businesses to create an environment of job and talent matching, Gianetti said.

Karmecy noted manufacturing in the five-county region accounts for 11 percent of the total regional employment, and represents nearly 40,000 employees.

A website — — was developed by Oh-Penn, which adopted the slogan, “Industry Needs You” for job and career outreach efforts, Giannetti said.