Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf wants to fund a new apprenticeship program by cracking down on companies that received state taxpayer dollars, but did not keep their job creation promises.

Wolf said the state Department of Community and Economic Development or DCED should revisit deals the state made with companies up to a decade ago under previous governors and check to see how the public dollars were spent. 

If companies did not create as many jobs as they said they would in violation of state contracts, the governor wants to claw-back some of the taxpayer money they received and put it into a fund for apprenticeship programs that help other people find work. 

"This is was not meant to be a free gift on the part of the taxpayers of Pennsylvania," Wolf said. "We'd like to use that money for a public good that actually has a payback and this is one really important one."

The governor spoke about his proposal at Breslin Learning Center in Philadelphia where District 1199c of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees provides job training and education. Cheryl Feldman, executive director of 1199c's Training and Upgrading Fund said that by July, the fund will employ 90 apprentices as medical assistants, nursing assistants, home health care aids, and early childhood educators.

Under Wolf's proposal, businesses could apply for state grants of up to $2,000 for each apprentice — people who have recently received their high school diploma or are changing fields — so long as they have an agreement registered with the Office of Apprenticeship in the United States Department of Labor.

"It's free, there actually are jobs and it's tied to specific industries that have a need," Wolf said.

However, the governor could not say how much money his proposal could generate or how many apprenticeships it could pay for.

DCED spokeswoman Heidi Havens said for the last five years, the department has reclaimed nearly $4 million a year from companies in violation of their state contracts. 

"With that said, at this point an estimate on the potential increase of claw-backs under new contract conditions would be premature," Havens said.