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Johnson College program aims to fill empty jobs in the area

The RISE program is for low-income adults in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties.

SCRANTON, Pa. — Johnson College's newest program is an acronym called RISE; its creators also hope it's a premonition.

Officials explained the program called "Readiness in Skilled Employment" in a news conference Tuesday. 

They started working on it before the pandemic. 

But, the economic impacts of COVID-19 accelerated the need for this accelerated job training program.

"It's a starker reality for employers now more than ever before. And we also know times are getting tougher for individuals and families. So, why not try to bring them together in a program that could benefit both individuals and employers," said Johnson College president Dr. Katie Leonard.

RISE is meant for low-income adults in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties who want training to help their own economic situation. 

They will be trained to become diesel mechanics, welders, medical assistants, and other jobs in industries that are struggling to find workers. 

Officials say the skills gap in Northeastern Pennsylvania is wide.

"It's pretty bad, and I think what we need to recognize is that it's not just here in Northeastern Pennsylvania; it's happening across the country. The communities, the counties that can attract and retain workers are the ones that are going to be economically viable," said Teri Omms of The Institute for Public Policy & Economic Development.

United Neighborhood Centers will help RISE students to find resources like transportation and child care to make coming to class a bit easier, and the William G. McGowan Charitable Fund is helping to cover tuition costs.

"Transportation, child care, family care, food. You have a tire that goes flat, some people don't have the money to be able to pay for that. We're going to give them those resources through United Neighborhood Centers and solve the problems of the employers," said Gert McGowan of the William G. McGowan Charitable Fund.

"The person can focus, the person can learn, so opportunities become open to them," Omms added.

RISE students will start in January. 

Johnson College is hoping for a few dozen students for its first class. 

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