Get our newsletters

Upper Bucks business community hears workforce challenges


The Upper Bucks Employer Summit focused on learning about free resources in Bucks County to help find and retain workers.

The event was a collaboration between the Pennridge Chamber of Commerce in Perkasie and Upper Bucks Chamber of Commerce, located in Quakertown. It was hosted at Bucks County Community College, Perkasie, on Oct. 29 and drew leaders from business, the nonprofit sector and education.

Representatives from Pennsylvania Career Link, Bucks County Workforce Development Board and Bucks County Community College shared resources available and explored workforce challenges.

Obstacles for employment in a tight market include affordable, accessible public transportation, said Billie Barnes, director of workforce development for Bucks County Workforce Development Board.

“Transportation is the number one challenge I’ve seen here,” Barnes said.

Barnes remarked that she’d driven roughly 500 miles during her first two weeks working for Bucks County Workforce. “It’s a big county,” she said.

Bucks County Workforce’s main office is in Bristol, with a satellite office in Perkasie at BCCC.

Barnes said opening more satellite offices around the county was one option in bringing services to more people.

“Access is critical,” she said.

Another option to make Workforce Development resources more easily available could be a traveling “mobile workforce office.”

Barnes said the Workforce Development board was considering ideas to “bring the office to them.”

The second challenge Barnes identified across industries in Bucks County and across the nation is open positions because enough workers are not available to fill them.

But the disconnect runs deeper than knowing where to look for work.

“We have about 75 students who leave high school without a plan,” said William Harner, superintendent of Quakertown Community School District.

Among those attending the Employer Summit was Quakertown Community High School jJunior Nicholas Symer, 16, of Quakertown Borough.

He was surprised by the amount of resources available to job seekers. “I thought mainly you were on your own. The community is doing a lot more than I thought,” Symer said, but he acknowledged getting the word out about job resources was challenging.

Symer said his generation (Gen Z) typically gets most of its information though Google ads, social media and old-fashioned word of mouth.

He’d like to see similar programs like the one hosted at BCCC provided at area high schools, too.

“We have a Model UN program and having a speaker come out to speak at an event would be really beneficial,” Symer said.

What happens when a company needs to downsize its workforce?

Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry can help firms as well as employees facing layoffs navigate the unemployment landscape or craft flexible temporary work solutions through a “shared work program.”

The Shared Work Program aims to provide a way for business owners to retain workers at reduced hours for a short period, rather than downsize the workforce and lose the talent altogether.

“Navigating unemployment is a complicated process,” said Karen Masciantonio, state Labor and Industry customer service representative.