WEPA turns Lebanon elementary into workforce training center

One has only to drive down the city streets to know that workers are in high demand since the pandemic. Lebanon businesses looking for skilled labor have hung many “Help wanted” signs across their doors. 

“There’s a lot of jobs out there (and) there are a lot of people that have those degrees, but with the language barrier they are underemployed,” said Susan Eberly, president of the Lebanon Valley Economic Development Corporation. 

For months, community leaders have been drafting a plan to tackle those skill divides, including the language barrier, simply by saying “WEPA.” 

The Working to Empower People for Advancement, or WEPA, empowerment center is where community leaders hope to provide education, community development, and intercultural engagement for Lebanon County. Co-founder Rafael Torres said the center will be a “one-stop shop” for job training and skills programs.

“This project is a community effort, because that’s what it’s going to take,” he said. 

Community leaders are planning to make the old Northwest Elementary school building the hope for the WEPA Empowerment Center. The center will be a multi-partnered endeavor to bring job skills and intercultural engagement to Lebanon residents. "This project is a community effort, because that's what it's going to take," organizer Rafael Torres said.

Organizers are partnering with Tec Centro, which has operated a similar center out of Lancaster for eight years. An initiative of the Spanish American Civic Association, Tec Centro works with organizations such as the Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology to train and certify students in a variety of programs, including electrical, heating and plumbing skills. 

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