WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – The Innovation Center is Wilkes-Barre has played a role in providing jobs in the science, technology, engineering and math fields – known more commonly as “STEM.” As these jobs become more significant in the nation’s workforce…Employers face a glaring problem.

“If you take a look at the students today, they are not necessarily well equipped to get into a STEM type of package,” said Wico van Genderen, the president and CEO of the Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business and Industry.

That has led to a “skills gap” in the workforce in Pennsylvania. Tuesday, business and military leaders released details of a new report that shows nearly two thirds of eighth graders in Pennsylvania aren’t proficient in math and science. That deficiency is hurting employers looking for skilled workers coming out of college and vocational schools. Leaders say closing this gap starts early. They are calling for more investment in pre-K programs.

“If you look at it from a business perspective, the kids are the future of this country and we need to make sure we make that investment in our childhood education,” said van Genderen.

The secretary of the Pennsylvania’s Department of Labor and Industry says she’s working hard to close the skills gap.

“We’re also partnering with the department of education and educators to push that information about what’s needed in our business community further back to the earlier years,” said Sec. Kathy Manderino