By GREGORY ZELLER //
The State Senate Task Force on Workforce Development is going to school.
Educational initiatives including new Pathways in Technology schools and expanded access to tech-focused BOCES programs are among the top recommendations made by the task force, which reported Tuesday on 18 months of research into New York’s current workforce-development programs and best future options.
Chaired by State Sens. Jack Martins (R-Mineola) and George Amedore (R-Rotterdam), the task force features a baker’s dozen of Republican senators – including Long Island representatives Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore), Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset), Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Michael Venditto (R-Massapequa).
Established in March 2015, the task force is charged with reviewing existing workforce-development initiatives and developing new ones, with an eye on improving employee readiness, meeting private-sector workforce demands, connecting job seekers to potential employers, retraining unemployed professionals and helping make the New York State economy “more robust, dynamic and resilient,” according to the task force’s executive summary.
The group released a preliminary report Tuesday detailing existing higher education, lower education and state-run programs and chronicling a series of regional forums held between April 2015 and January 2016 at locations throughout the state. An April 2015 New York City forum discussed thousands of available mid-skill jobs and the lack of workers to fill them, for example, while a June 2015 forum in Newburgh sought public opinion on potential workforce-development reforms.
The Long Island forum, held Jan. 22 at Suffolk County Community College, focused on demand-specific training and featured a panel discussion between SCCC economic-development Vice President John Lombardo; Roger Clayman of the Long Island Federation of Labor, an AFL-CIO local; Workforce Development Institute Regional Director Rosalie Drago; ADDAPT President Jamie Moore; Nassau BOCES Executive Director Jean Silverman; Bridgette Senior, VP of Ronkonkoma-based aerospace manufacturer Alken Industries; Brian Beedenbender, VP of Huntington Station education-technology specialist Teq; founder Michael Johnston of the Plainview-based Concorde Hotel Group; and Gail Lamberta, associate dean of community development at St. Joseph’s College.
Among the highlights of the Jan. 22 discussion was Lombardo’s call for expanded partnerships with manufacturers to give students the skillsets they’ll need to ultimately benefit both the students and the companies.
“What we need is performance-based funding for successful training programs to use for growth and sustainability,” Lombardo said Wednesday.
Clayman, the LI Federation of Labor’s executive director, used the Long Island forum to highlight Opportunities Long Island, the federation’s nonprofit outreach program designed to help students land key apprenticeships.
Other points made at the forum included Silverman’s suggestion that BOCES create a career-pathways model making career resources more visible to employers and students, and a call by Moore – who estimated that 80 percent of Long Island manufacturers are unware of the availability of state-sponsored training programs and grants – for disparate workforce-development entities to maximize efficiency by working together.
Drago, meanwhile, addressed the need to change public perceptions that mid-skill jobs are “low skill” or “low pay,” a theme she said was repeated when the WDI co-hosted a Manufacturing Innovation Conference this week with LaunchPad Huntington.
“What struck me most about the Senate Task Force Preliminary Report was that it keyed in on the need to introduce manufacturing and building-trade careers earlier in schools through support of P-Tech and other programs,” Drago said Wednesday. “The only way to change hearts and minds on this issue is to once again value craftsmanship and to capitalize on the natural curiosity and passion young children have for building and tinkering.”
Collating these opinions with a number of others gleaned from across the state, the Task Force on Workforce Development made a number of specific recommendations, including those expanded rolls for BOCES and P-Tech schools, which “represent unique programs that prepare students for both the college and career-ready sides of the spectrum,” according to the preliminary report.
Task force members also suggested protocols requiring that high school guidance counselors consult with local building trades to develop and encourage participation in new apprenticeship programs. The panel also called for more focused use of employment data – specifically, that regional community colleges use Department of Labor data to predict future workforce needs and establish new degree or certificate programs to meet them.
The all-Republican task force also advocated for the enactment of the Help Individuals Reach Employment program in New York. According to State Senate Bill S7646, introduced by LaValle in 2015 and still kicking, HIRE – which has been put into effect in various forms in other states – would create a no-charge certificate program for SUNY or CUNY graduates who can’t find full-time employment.
The program would be “tailored to market needs,” the task force noted, and designed to enhance the graduates’ “employment marketability.”
Based on the contents of the preliminary report, “the Senate Majority Conference will be advancing legislation to dramatically strengthen and improve New York’s overall workforce development strategies and programs,” according to the task force.