Special Reports

Q&A with Shannon Munro

The vice president for workforce development at the Pennsylvania College of Technology discusses what’s next for workforce development.

Shannon Munro, vice president for workforce development at the Pennsylvania College of Technology

Shannon Munro, vice president for workforce development at the Pennsylvania College of Technology Pennsylvania College of Technology

This conversation has been edited and condensed for length and clarity. 

What is your assessment of the current state of Pennsylvania's workforce development efforts? 

We have positive momentum toward solutions to the continuous workforce challenges that exist across the world. Those solutions include diverse approaches to how and where people are trained, incorporating emerging technology and rethinking education pathways. However, there are currently not enough people available to work in the areas where we need them the most, which necessitates targeting resources to solve the most critical challenges.

What are some of the ways you are trying to improve workforce development?

Penn College approaches workforce development holistically. Improving workforce development requires understanding it. Many jobs still require an associate’s, bachelor’s or master’s degree in order to enter the workforce prepared and at a more than livable wage. However, we recognize that there are many opportunities now for people to enter the workforce and train as they go. With the rapid advances in most industries, a degree might be required for entry, but learning doesn’t stop there. Continuous upskilling on multiple fronts is now the norm. Penn College provides people with multiple entry points for the education and training they need to start or flourish in their careers.

What are the biggest priorities for local, state and national politicians to improve workforce development?

The priority at all levels of government should be focused on supporting industries that are most critical to the economies they impact. We must ensure that any investments to support workforce initiatives are aligned with current and targeted future workforce needs. It isn’t enough to say, “We don’t have enough skilled people.” We must understand why people are on the sidelines, because engaging them is more important than ever. Whether the challenge is child care, parental or family care, transportation, substance abuse, or other issues, we must develop flexible solutions that meet those challenges and pull in all available workers.

Are there any organizations you draw inspiration from for their efforts on workforce development?

We are inspired by the work of Lightcast, a global leader in labor market analytics. The first step in developing a future workforce is to understand the challenges impacting the current and anticipated workforce. We’ve used Lightcast data and insights to ensure that we are aligned with current and future market needs, and that we understand the challenges (and underlying reasons) companies are facing in finding workers. 

What is the one piece of advice you would give to people planning to enter or reenter the workforce? 

Look back and forward at the same time to understand how to best position yourself for the workforce landscape. What jobs continued to be in demand during the pandemic? Which jobs will exist in the future? There is a lot to be said for careers in engineering technology and health care, as well as apprenticeship opportunities. There are well-paying, in-demand jobs that allow people to fully engage in solving many of the problems in our communities and the world.

Back to Special Report: Improving Workforce Development

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