PASSHE is Meeting PA’s Workforce Needs

Pennsylvania has worker shortages and a critical education and training gap: 60% of jobs in the commonwealth require some higher education after high school, but only 53% of workers have the needed degree or credential. Our universities work hard to align their academic programs to meet the state's needs.

As the state-owned university system, PASSHE universities are committed to closing the gapPower-and-Promise-of-PASSHE_Workforce_FINAL.pdf and serving the learners and employers of Pennsylvania.

The state’s future prosperity hinges on developing a skilled workforce that can compete in today’s global economy. Efforts to address shortages and enhance workforce development remain crucial for sustained economic growth.

PASSHE universities are focused on addressing these workforce shortages in innovative and creative ways from collaborative efforts between the universities and regional employers to utilizing data on workforce demand to ensure academic programs are preparing students with the latest skills for emerging job trends.

In addition to aligning degree programs to workforce demands, below are some other efforts universities are undertaking to provide the talent PA needs. 


Workforce training gap chart


Workforce-aligned Credentials

PASSHE universities are developing workforce-aligned programs to upskill and reskill Pennsylvanians for positions that can advance their own economic mobility and contribute significantly to the vitality of the commonwealth. 

Workforce-aligned credentials — licenses, certificates, certifications and badges — are awarded to students who demonstrate their skills and competences in a specific career or industry.  PASSHE universities are expanding credential offerings to prepare more Pennsylvanians for jobs with worker shortages. 

Examples of workforce-aligned initiatives: 

For more information, email Hope Lineman.


Micro-credentials are short courses through which students can demonstrate their knowledge in a specific area and get a digital certification or digital badge that is valuable for career growth. Students can “stack” (or combine) them in different ways to customize their education and certify their skills and expertise for employers.  Alignment to industry-recognized credentials can provide a viable, flexible way for employees to keep pace — perfect for a diverse range of potential students.  

Commonwealth University is leading the effort to study the alignment between curriculum and in-demand, industry-recognized credentials. This process will better prepare students for future job opportunities and stackable credentials; at the same time, Commonwealth University is:   

  • identifying the skills and competencies that exist within courses and programs that align to industry-recognized credentials;  
  • revealing gaps in the alignment—what skills and outcomes could be added to existing courses to increase employment preparedness;  
  • identifying opportunities for collaboration between institutions, workforce development, and employers; and 
  • helping inform future credit for prior learning initiatives by identifying courses that are best aligned to industry credentials and certifications.

Industries include engineering, information technology, human services and social work, education, business, and nursing/healthcare.

For more information, email Hope Lineman.

Work-based Learning

The State System and the PASSHE Foundation are embarking on a pilot initiative in collaboration with statewide employers to increase access to work-based learning (WBL) opportunities for PASSHE students. Work-based learning encompasses various facets, such as integrating career competencies into campus employment, engaging students in employer-driven projects within classrooms, and facilitating broader access to employer internships. Research shows the significant impact of WBL on students' economic mobility, motivating our focus on building infrastructure to prepare all students, particularly those historically underserved, for the workforce while also enhancing Pennsylvania employers' access to early talent.

Anticipated outcomes include:

  • Increase student access to WBL opportunities by engaging with over 1,000 students throughout the course of the pilot program (AY ’24-’25 and AY ’25-’26);
  • Establish a scalable market for paid experiential learning opportunities (ELOs) that enhance college-to-career pathways for all PASSHE students and employers, thus advancing students’ economic mobility, in the short term (job placement) and long term (earnings trajectory);
  • Foster long-term sustainability and systemic change by integrating work-based learning into the academic curriculum; and
  • Develop a comprehensive "playbook," detailing key learnings, accountabilities, and metrics necessary for a full-scale launch across all 10 PASSHE universities.

The pilot includes five State System universities from different regions of Pennsylvania: Cheyney (southeast), Commonwealth (north central), East Stroudsburg (northeast), Slippery Rock (west), and Shippensburg (central).  Anchor Employers, including Highmark Health, Ellucian, Commonwealth Agencies, and Hershey Entertainment & Resorts, will take a leading role in providing guidance for this initiative and broadening WBL opportunities. This advisory committee will collaborate closely with universities and State System leadership to review progress and ensure resources are available.

For more information, email Sara Holzer.

#Prepared4PA Initiative

The initiative enabled PASSHE universities to build a robust talent pipeline and develop industry-education workforce collaboratives that encouraged alignment and connections within the workforce ecosystem.

Competency Maps

The #Prepared4PA initiative aligned employer-validated competencies and skills needed for successful transitions in the workforce across six identified in-demand industries. Competency maps articulate employers’ requirements for in-demand occupations that informed training and education programs designed to help build our talent pipeline. The competency maps provide a resource when building pilot programs to train workers, job seekers, and students to meet workforce needs.

Pilot Programs

  • Cheyney University partnered with PSECU, AT&T, and others to launch its Workforce Enhancement Network in Cybersecurity.
  • Shippensburg University’s agribusiness pilot was designed to address workforce demands and the subsequent career pathways of those who work in that industry.

Employer Engagement Action Plan

For more information, email Hope Lineman.