Having built a business, I understand that companies are only as strong as the people who work there, new businesses will only come to a state that invests in education and offers a skilled workforce, and existing businesses will only expand if they can hire the talented people to support that growth.
That’s why I shared profits with my employees, offered training programs, and worked in my community to expand links between businesses and schools.
So, to help Pennsylvania’s economy continue to thrive and create new middle-class jobs, we must continue to invest in education. That is why I have fought to increase funding — from pre-K to K-12 to college and career training. After years of devastating school cuts that led to teacher layoffs and larger class sizes, we have reversed the trend and restored the cuts.
Pennsylvania has made education and job training a priority again. As our economy grows, we must ensure we have skilled workers and good schools that attract new companies.
Over the past three years, we have restored the harmful cuts made to our schools and implemented a fair funding formula.
Those investments start early in life with our youngest children. Thanks to unprecedented support for early education, 48 percent more kids are able to attend quality pre-kindergarten programs than just a few years ago. Just as importantly, our strong commitment to education is enabling more students to have access to art, music and advanced placement programs that had been disappearing from our schools.
Today, the commonwealth’s high school graduation rate tops 86 percent, making us a national leader. Students are then leaving high school better prepared to start specialized career and technology training or start college.
Now, we must do more to support students and parents. Pennsylvania has world-class universities that partner with the leading companies on cutting-edge innovation, 14 high-quality state-owned universities, growing community colleges, and diverse career and technical programs.
We must work to make college more affordable and expand investments in career and technical programs for high school students.
Not every child will attend a four-year college, so my administration has expanded the apprenticeship and training programs so that all our children will have the skills and education they need to hold good-paying jobs.
My administration has increased the number of students in career and technical programs by 42 percent, and Pennsylvania is now a national leader in the high-growth fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.
Thanks to our investments, Pennsylvania ranks fourth nationally in the number of STEM graduates and is in the top 10 of states for technology and innovation and employment in STEM jobs. I am committed to boosting the number of students in STEM majors at state-supported postsecondary institutions to 10,000 by the year 2020 and making sure every student has access to a robust computer science curriculum.
We are also increasing our focus on apprenticeships, which have changed with our 21st century economy.
Last year, I directed the Department of Labor and Industry to create the Apprenticeship and Training Office to encourage more businesses and schools to offer apprenticeships.
More than 15,000 people are now getting the specialized training from nearly 750 apprenticeship programs. They are gaining increased skills, and a nationally recognized credentials, in a wide range of fields from the traditional trades to robotics and high-tech manufacturing and even healthcare and education.
We are building connections between job seekers and employers and opening doors for young people just entering the workforce and supporting more experienced workers who need re-training for career advancement and higher wages.
Together, we are creating a pathway to real, viable careers with family-sustaining wages and supporting the workforce that businesses want.
I know from my own experience that the Keystone State is a great place to do business. We have a wonderful combination of location, resources and people. I am committed to the success of our economy and working families by continuing our strong investments in education and workforce training that will bring new business and jobs to the commonwealth and encourage our companies here now to thrive and grow.