Author Archive for John Dawe

PA business and military leaders: STEM jobs are growing – but can we fill them?

Wilkes-Barre, June 14 – Regional business chamber officials joined forces with military leaders today to release a new report detailing how high quality pre-k is important to developing STEM skills—those essential capabilities in science, technology, engineering, and math demanded in the 21st Century workforce. The report calls on state policymakers to expand access to high quality pre-k as part of the 2016-17 state budget.

Wico van Genderen - GWB Chamber“Our concern about the development of STEM skills in young people is well-founded,” said Wico van Genderen, President & CEO of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business and Industry. “STEM-based jobs like computer science and healthcare are expected to grow by 20 percent to 37 percent nationally in coming years. They are driving the economy, and yet, more than half of Pennsylvania employers have reported trouble finding people with adequate skills, training, or education, especially in technical and skilled job openings.”

IMG_4734Retired Army Major General Joe Perugino of Kingston also warned that our tech-focused military faces similar challenges. “Like all employers, the armed forces need people with STEM skills,” said Perugino. “As just one example, the U.S. Army has 16 laboratories and research centers where more than 16,000 world-class scientists and engineers develop technologies that give our soldiers advanced capabilities. It is therefore troubling to know that inadequate education is a major factor that precludes 72 percent of Pennsylvania’s 17-24 year-olds from enlisting in the military.”

This workforce “skills gap” reflects a similar gap within Pennsylvania classrooms. Nearly two-thirds of Pennsylvania eighth-graders are not proficient in math and science. Plus, one in four students entering Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education schools requires remedial math and/or English. For low-income students the rate rises to 40 percent.

Joseph Boylan - GWB ChamberServing as a backdrop for the conference was the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber’s Innovation Center – a business incubator in downtown Wilkes-Barre that houses several high-tech startups. Joseph Boylan, Vice-President for Economic Development at the Chamber explained, “as the technology firms grow here at the Innovation Center, they will be looking to hire new employees with the tech skills they need.”

Businesses and chambers are being proactive in addressing STEM skill deficiencies by retraining current employees and creating strategic partnerships with schools,” said Boylan. “Additionally, research is clear that a long-term plan to address our growing STEM needs should also focus on early childhood.”

Secretary Kathy Manderino“The skills gap will seriously affect our ability to find a talented and qualified future workforce,” said Pennsylvania Secretary of Labor & Industry Kathy Manderino. “We’re looking at significant retirements in the years ahead and business leaders are extremely concerned about finding qualified employees in the coming years. ”

The ReadyNation / Mission: Readiness report details how STEM skills take root in early childhood:

  • Disadvantaged children can be 18 months behind their peers in math achievement when they enter kindergarten, and the gap keeps growing. In the first three to five years of life, children’s brains build synapses—the neural connections that support learning and skill development—at the rate of 700 a second.
  • High-quality early education directs children into fun, play-based activities that have a purpose. These activities teach real math and science, preparing children to absorb more complex concepts as they grow.
  • Early math knowledge predicts later academic achievement, including better reading skills.
  • Proper brain development in young children also supports such valued workplace characteristics as focus, perseverance, and teamwork.

Secretary Manderino praised the report saying, “This report motivates Governor Wolf and all of us in his administration to take action.”

Rear Admiral Thomas Wilson (ret.)Navy Rear Admiral (Ret.) Tom Wilson noted that the military has for years provided high quality early learning for all active-duty military families. He continued that this is not the case with state funded pre-k programs. “Far too few of Pennsylvania’s young learners have access to publicly funded high-quality pre-k, said Wilson. “In Luzerne County, 72 percent of income eligible children do not have access. That’s more than 3,500 (120,000 statewide) income eligible young children each year who will not receive quality learning experiences that position them for academic achievement and workplace success.”

Wilson urged lawmakers to include a $90 million expansion proposal for high-quality pre-kindergarten in the 2016-17 state budget. The $90 million expansion would allow 7,400 more Pennsylvania children to receive high-quality early childhood education, and 6,200 would receive pre-kindergarten for a full year, instead of a half-year.

“If America does not produce enough young people who can meet the STEM needs of both the private sector and the military, both our economy and our national security could suffer,” said Wilson. “Pennsylvania policymakers must help ensure the STEM workforce of tomorrow by growing access to pre-k today.”


ReadyNation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group of more than 1,400 business leaders nationwide. Together, they aim to strengthen the workforce, business climate, and economy by focusing greater attention on the value of research-proven investments in children’s learning and development.

Mission: Readiness is the nonprofit, nonpartisan national security organization of more than 600 retired generals, admirals and other senior retired military leaders who work to ensure continued American security and prosperity into the 21st century by calling for smart investments in the upcoming generation of American children.

For a copy of the full report, “STEM and Early Childhood – When Skills Take Root,” please visit

Media contact: Steve Doster – cell: 717-343-6403; email

TOP 5 reasons why the EPIC Awards will be the Networking Event of the Summer

1. Celebrate the EXTRAORDINARY Honorees


Celebrate the people who are being honored, starting with our EPIC award presentation ceremony. This one hour featured presentation honors Patrice Persico, Kathi Bankes and Teri Ooms, with Century Recognitions to the Rotary Club of Wilkes-Barre and Penn State Wilkes-Barre and a special presentation to Dr. Charles Davis.

2. Over 300 Industry Professionals Confirmed to Attend


EPIC networking opportunities with over 350 of the Area’s Business Leaders & Upcoming Professionals to make amazing industry connections.

3. Our EPIC Food Vendors


Hungry? Appetizers will be available following the program featuring Chamber Member Restaurants: Ruth’s Chris, East Mountain Inn, Rodano’s & Franklin’s, Genetti’s, Lucky’s Sportshouse, Wolfgang Puck, El Zocalo & desserts by Amberdonia. PLUS complimentary drinks will be provided.

4. The Historic F.M. Kirby Center


Centrally located in the heart of downtown Wilkes-Barre, the beautiful and historic F.M. Kirby Center plays host to this year’s EPIC Awards.

5. Because it’s going to be EPIC


Get your tickets today!


News Release: Teri Ooms to be Receive Innovator of the Year Award

oomsWILKES-BARRE (May 6, 2016) – The Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce announced Teri Ooms will be honored at its Extraordinary People Inspiring Community (EPIC) Awards with the Innovator of the Year award.  Sponsored by Wells Fargo, the EPIC Awards will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 7, 2016 at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, Public Square, Wilkes-Barre.

Ooms is Executive Director of the Institute for Public Policy and Economic Development, a position she has held since its formation in 2004.  Under her direction, The Institute has completed more than 100 client and community based studies. These studies have resulted in new jobs, new programs, sustained initiatives, and new legislation throughout Pennsylvania and in New York.

“Teri has worked closely with the team that recently launched the Wilkes-Barre Connect initiative. This program is innovation in itself.  The purpose of the program is to foster the entrepreneurial spirit in the region and increase business and job creation, retention, expansion, and attraction,” wrote nominator Nimita Patel, a research assistant at the Institute. “If an innovator is indeed a person who introduces new methods, ideas, or products – Teri Ooms is an innovator to the core.”

“Innovation is one part a passionate idea and one part science, Teri Ooms embodies both.   Her work at the Institute is data driven and adheres to lean principles and infrastructure.  At the same time she is naturally curious and entrepreneurial.   Her ability to create a data driven innovation environment that breeds and builds innovation momentum makes Teri the ideal recipient of the Innovator of the Year Award,” added Chamber CEO Wico van Genderen.

Ooms joins already announced honorees Volunteer of the Year Kathi Bankes and ATHENA Honoree Patrice Persico.

Information about the event, including sponsorship and commemorative program book advertising is available by calling 570-823-2101 ext. 724 and visiting

Media Contact: John Dawe, CNP, CFRE (570-408-1741)

News Release: Kathi Bankes to be Honored as Volunteer of the Year

WILKES-BARRE (May 6, 2016) – The Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce announced Kathi Bankes will be honored at its Extraordinary People Inspiring Community (EPIC) Awards with the Volunteer of the Year award.  Sponsored by Wells Fargo, the EPIC Awards will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 7, 2016 at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, Public Square, Wilkes-Barre.

BankesBankes is Private Dining Manager at Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Elixir Bistro, and Wolfgang Puck, and a hospitality industry veteran with Metz Culinary Management.

“Not only does Kathi dedicate much of her own time to volunteer for multiple community causes,” said nominator Maureen Metz, “Her enthusiasm consistently inspires others to do the same. Her involvement with the American Red Cross, Greater Wilkes-Barre Association for the Blind, American Heart Association, the Chamber’s Women’s Network, and numerous other organizations she has helped over the years is truly remarkable.”

“Because of her many efforts, Kathi has earned the respect and gratitude of those for whom and with whom she serves.  She is known for her outgoing and friendly manner, intelligence, work ethic, positive attitude, teamwork mentality, and commitment.  Providing the building blocks for numerous nonprofits is a natural for her,” wrote co-nominator Bobbie Steever of TFP Limited in a letter of support.

“Kathi is driven to meet and exceed expectations with any challenge she is given. It is this work ethic paired with her passion for community that so many organizations in our region are better because of,” added Chamber CEO Wico van Genderen.

Bankes joins already announced honorees Teri Ooms, Innovator of the Year and Patrice Persico, ATHENA Honoree.

Information about the event, including sponsorship and commemorative program book advertising is available by calling 570-823-2101 ext. 724 and visiting

Media Contact: John Dawe, CNP, CFRE (570-408-1741)