This story was originally released by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry 

Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) Secretary Jennifer Berrier visited a Harrisburg-area grocery store Wednesday to celebrate the first group of The GIANT Company and Bake Crafters employees to successfully complete an innovative program to upskill agribusiness workers while they earn a paycheck. The project is supported by the PASSHE Foundation and a recent $250,000 Industry Partnership Grant from L&I Opens In A New Window.

The program is a partnership of The GIANT Company, Bake Crafters, Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) Foundation, Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, Shippensburg University, HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, and SCPa Works, the South Central Workforce Investment Board.

Twenty employees – including floor managers, bakery managers, front-end managers, HR generalists and warehouse directors — completed the program. Each learned valuable skills that are necessary to sustainable and growth-driven business practices such as increasing sales and asset protection; forecasting and increasing supply efficiencies; as well as practical techniques to become stronger and more inclusive leaders.

“The knowledge that these 20 individuals gained through this experience will serve them for the rest of their careers. A worker who possesses a skillset that employers need is a worker who can reliably earn a competitive wage in a job they like and with an employer who treats them well. That is why the Wolf Administration is so focused on workforce development programs that build skillsets,” said Secretary Berrier.

The Industry Partnership funding from L&I will be used to expand the partnership to include additional employers; offer the leadership program opportunity to additional employees, including dislocated workers; recruit new employees, particularly from underserved populations, into the agribusiness industry; and incorporate key career-readiness activities to further fuel participants’ socioeconomic mobility and career growth.

“At The GIANT Company, one of our team promises is to help our team members grow through new opportunities, and the certification program helps us deliver on that promise by providing a unique opportunity for our team members to build and grow their skillset,” said Jennifer Heinzen Krueger, vice president of team experience, The GIANT Company. “The retail grocery industry is ever-changing, and the skills our team members have developed through this course will undoubtedly serve them, our company, and the commonwealth as a whole. We’re proud to be a part of this exciting initiative spearheaded by Secretary Berrier, Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education Foundation, Shippensburg University and all of the program partners.”

Shippensburg University, HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, and the Harrisburg University of Science and Technology developed curriculum to put workers on a successful career pathway within agribusiness, including grocery retail, transportation/warehousing and food manufacturing.

“As we celebrate these 20 individuals, we continue to look forward, recruiting more students and expanding our partnerships in service to the needs of our regional and state workforce,” said Dr. Charles E. Patterson, president of Shippensburg University. “We’ve now proven this model works, and Shippensburg University is committed to working with our partners as we collaborate to strengthen and enhance Pennsylvania’s economic health and mobility.”

A second group of 20 to 30 students will begin the program later this summer. The partnership is seeking other employers to join. Agribusiness, logistics and transportation, and manufacturing are all examples of industries that can benefit from this program.

“The time is now for higher education, a key driver of local economies in the commonwealth, to be innovative in creating short-term, diverse, equitable and inclusive credentialing opportunities for individuals in Pennsylvania,” said Cynthia Pritchard, CEO of the State System Foundation.

Strengthening job and skills training in Pennsylvania is a priority for the Wolf Administration. Since 2018, under Governor Wolf’s PAsmart initiative, the administration has distributed nearly $60 million statewide to expand job training through registered apprenticeships and industry partnerships and to support STEM and computer science education in hundreds of schools across Pennsylvania.