Albany stakes $3M statewide apprenticeship effort

Next stage: SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson is all for Albany's new effort to unite business and academia, for the purposes of creating apprenticeship programs focused on 21st century industry.

A chunky state investment will focus the State University of New York system on the specific needs of employers in cutting-edge fields, part of Albany’s plan to help train New York’s 21st century workforce.

The state will sink $3 million into programs that put together SUNY, the NYS Department of Labor and statewide employers – specifically those in the healthcare and advanced-manufacturing industries – to create registered apprenticeships “that directly answer New York’s workforce needs,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office said Tuesday.

Albany’s latest seven-figure investment will fund the creation of up to 2,000 new pre-apprenticeship and registered-apprenticeship positions within the next six years, all within priority industries identified through a series of regional and statewide roundtable workgroups, according to the governor’s office.

Noting “a trained workforce is a strong workforce,” Cuomo said the registered-apprenticeship programs – which will invite regional employers to become sponsors and will directly address skills gaps in their emerging 21st century workforces – “address a growing need for skilled workers in advanced manufacturing and healthcare.”

“These critically important apprenticeship programs will support our workforce and create good-paying jobs that are the foundation of New York’s middle class,” the governor added.

The SUNY system and the Department of Labor will also weigh the efforts of each region’s Regional Economic Development Council – a particularly important factor, with applications for the eighth-annual REDC funding round now being accepted and $750 million in economic-development funding and services in play.

Rosalie Drago: Pro-pipeline.

Registered-apprenticeship programs created through the $3 million stipend will “enhance on-the-job training and related instruction,” including competency-based training and the use of online modules. The program will also “include pathways for underrepresented minority populations,” according to the governor’s office.

The registered-apprenticeship effort is akin to other SUNY workforce-development efforts, including SUNY Works – which currently enrolls more than 20,000 SUNY students in clinical placements and internships – and SUNY Serves, which currently engages more than 30,000 SUNY students in college-credited service-learning programs.

All 64 SUNY campuses offer “high-quality applied-learning opportunities,” according to the governor’s office, with a growing number adding applied-learning experience to their graduation requirements.

Rosalie Drago, Long Island regional director for the Workforce Development Institute, said the governor’s funding initiative would “improve access to programs that prepare New York workers for jobs.”

The WDI is an Albany-based nonprofit that supports statewide job growth and retention through business-improvement grants and collaborations with industry, academia and government – similar themes to those playing in the new registered-apprenticeship effort, which according to Drago couldn’t have come at a better time.

“WDI has seen an increase in requests for support of pre-apprenticeship, apprenticeship and intermediaries to help companies create a pipeline of skilled workers,” the regional director told Innovate LI. “Through our fieldwork, we’re supporting these initiatives with funding and collaborative sharing of workforce intelligence, and by directing companies to intermediaries.”

Supporting intermediaries – third-party stakeholders that can help bring together employers, educators and future workforces – are “essential to ensure access to apprenticeships and the success of these efforts,” Drago added.

In a statement, SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson also noted the importance of sufficient access to apprenticeships, noting “the best-educated workforce comes from a continuum that connects the academic curriculum to real-life work experience.”

“Our campuses have been doing just that with faculty and leadership in close partnership with local businesses,” Johnson added. “This work is strengthened by the governor’s investment, which will expand access to our targeted workforce-development programs for our students and answer the economic needs in our communities.”

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