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Innovative Program Aims to Rebuild and Reshape NEPA’s Workforce

Wilkes-Barre Connect Introduces NEPA Works Project to Meet Local Workforce Challenges.

The project aligns local organizations in a mission to bridge skills gaps, develop stronger workforce system connectivity and get displaced NEPA workers back to work.

As NEPA’s workforce faces challenges brought on, in large part, by the COVID-19 pandemic, several local organizations are teaming up to create new opportunities for workers and employers. Wilkes-Barre Connect, the Greater Wilkes Barre Chamber’s economic development function stepped up to lead the effort. They call it the NEPA Works Project. The team at Wilkes-Barre Connect partnered with the PA Department of Community and Economic Development for the program. And the Appalachian Regional Commission provides funding for the project.

NEPA Works is a two-pronged, 12-month pilot program designed to strengthen, and modernize the Luzerne County workforce. One arm of the project aims to enhance marketing efforts within the workforce system. The other is dedicated to channeling displaced workers into robust, technology-focused retraining programs. Altogether, NEPA Works brings together the demands of a rapidly evolving work landscape and the strength of a willing, local workforce.

Organizations joining Wilkes-Barre Connect in the effort include: Pa CareerLink Luzerne County, Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber, The Institute at Wilkes University, Codelicious, Mobiniti and Coal Creative.


A Diversified Approach Offers Modern Workforce Solutions



Reimagining Our Workforce

The first part of the NEPA Works Project includes an aggressive marketing strategy. Reimagining Our Workforce combines the Chamber’s extensive network with workforce providers. The effort aims to build a multi-layered, user-friendly communication structure. Overall, the project hopes to spark a marked increase in user activity within Luzerne County’s PA CareerLink workforce system.

The Reimagining Our Workforce platform offers simple solutions for direct employer/candidate communication. The platform, managed by Mobiniti, utilizes SMS messaging to connect potential employers to the workforce and the PA CareerLink system. Users create custom, shareable profiles and personalized graphics for social media. The whole system allows both job seekers and employers to take marketing into their own hands.



Under the Reimagining Our Workforce platform, access to Luzerne County’s PA CareerLink system and its extensive catalogue of programs are only a tap away. For more information on Reimagining Our Workforce, contact Project Manager, Michaela Benczkowski at [email protected]


Getting NEPA Back to Work



Coding the Coal Region

The second component of the NEPA Works Project focuses on education and retraining. Namely, the project aims to connect Luzerne County’s displaced workforce with a wealth of local opportunities within the computer programming sector.

Coding the Coal Region takes both a short-term and long-term approach to bridging a critical, local skills gap. First, in the nearer future, the Post-Grad program intends to train and place local workers in plentiful, currently available positions within the coding and programming industry. Short-term training includes industry-led, online courses, leading to industry-recognized certifications.



For the long-term, Coding the Coal Region shifts focus to NEPA’s future workforce. The program offers students in grades 6-12 the opportunity to complete an online computer programming training curriculum.

The free, instructor-led courses take place after school. The on-line program requires that students have internet access and a computer or tablet. Students who cannot do so at home, may access devices and Wi-Fi at the THINK Center in Wilkes-Barre. Codelicious, a virtual,  computer science education platform, will deliver the curriculum.

Students (and their parents) interested in the bright future of programming should visit NEPA Works for more information. Applications must be received by July 31, 2020. Fall courses begin on August 17, 2020.

For more information on Coding the Coal Region, contact Project Manager, Shanie Mohamed at [email protected]

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