A strong economy, coupled with a rising number of ineligible Pennsylvanians, has contributed to all-time lows in the number of people enlisting in the military, a new
Mission: Readiness, a nonpartisan organization, held a news conference and took the wraps off its new workforce readiness report in Pennsylvania. The document outlines how competition for qualified people in all employment sectors is affecting military recruitment.
Steve Doster, state director of "Mission: Readiness," said there are parallels between the public and private sectors on the state of today’s youth and their pathway to meeting the needs of unfilled positions.
While the labor shortage for skilled manufacturing jobs has been well publicized in recent years, Doster said the gap in qualified Pennsylvania youth entering all branches of the military is less known. He said the goal of the new report is to shed light on the seriousness surrounding the shortage.
“Our report shows that our military is not insulated from these gaps in workforce readiness,” Doster said.
At a news conference Tuesday, retired Army Lt. Gen. Dennis Benchoff pointed out some of the statistics related to military investment within Pennsylvania last year.
When 2018 came to a close, Benchoff said the Army missed its recruitment goal by about 6,500 persons, or 8.5 percent. Additionally, the Army National Guard and Army Reserve missed their goals last year to the tune of a combined 17,000 recruits within the state.
The military is in “fierce competition” with the private sector, Benchoff said – a common issue when the economy is on an upward swing.
But there are other factors at play with the shortage, Benchoff and others at the news conference said, pointing to a need to allocate more resources to fund early childhood education.
Seven in 10 Pennsylvania youth today cannot enlist in the military, simply because they are ineligible in one or more key categories.
The list of qualifications, off the bat, includes graduating high school, passing a military exam, having a clean criminal record and being in good health.
While his interests align with the military, Benchoff said the lack of qualifications in his area of expertise should give pause to all other areas of the state. In the private sector, Benchoff said employers typically look for many of the same traits military personnel seek in recruits.
Pennsylvania Adjutant Gen. Anthony Carrelli said all branches of the military frequently invest in state-of-the-art technology and machinery to ensure safety within the state and across the U.S.
“But our people are the most important resource,” Carrelli said. “The lifeblood of these forces is the people.”
Gov. Tom Wolf also was in attendance at the news conference and subsequently issued a statement with his position on the issue.
“I am committed to making investments in education at all ages to help ensure we provide Pennsylvanians with the skills needed for every open job, and that includes positions with the Pennsylvania National Guard and all branches of the military,” Wolf said in the statement.
While strides have been made, Wolf at the news conference said his goal is to work with both branches of state government to address the issues linked to the skills gap in the military.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Wolf said.
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