A little over a year ago the Senate Task Force on Workforce Development was established to review the state’s existing job training programs for both job seekers and workers interested in advancement or a career change. The task force was charged with developing new initiatives to improve employee readiness, connect job seekers with potential employers, retrain those who have lost jobs, and make certain that our workforce meets changing private sector needs.
As a member of the task force, I joined with my colleagues in reviewing existing employment programs and exploring the needs of employers and job seekers with an eye toward growing our economy. The task force held a number of forums around the state and just released a report summarizing our findings.
Before a company moves to New York or expands here, there are a number of factors that are considered – regulations, energy costs, and the availability of a well-trained workforce. This report really focuses on the needs of new, developing industries and how best to train New Yorkers to fill the jobs of the future. Among the recommendations:
Cultivate forward-facing employment data from the State Department of Labor: While the current DOL data collection strategy underscores the reality of New York’s employment opportunities, this data is rear-facing. The task force recommends an expansion of Department of Labor data to include forward-facing job data that can be used by employers and educators to accurately predict future needs and properly prepare the workforce for career opportunities;
Invest $23 million to continue and expand P-TECH schools: College and career readiness is the new gauge used by education experts and advocates to show whether graduating students will be able to enter college without extra assistance/remediation and how likely a student will be to compete and attain gainful employment. New York State Pathways in Technology Schools, or “P-TECHs,” are unique programs that allow students to obtain high school diplomas, while also earning a cost-free associates degree. The task force recommends committing $23 million to support and expand P-Tech programs;
Increase access to career and tech programs at BOCES: The task force recognizes the important role that BOCES plays in allowing school districts to share services and access career and tech programs that districts would not be able to develop in their individual capacities. The task force is calling on the State Education Department to work with districts to remove some of the stigma associated with taking classes through BOCES, encourage students to take advantage of the career and technical education services BOCES offers; and increase the current salary cap for BOCES from $30,000 to $50,000 to attract and retain qualified and skilled teachers;
Increase access to continuing adult education programs at BOCES: Training students through career and technical education is an important step towards ensuring New York has the infrastructure in place to have a workforce that can meet the growing demands of the state's economy and fill empty jobs in new, specialized fields. The Task Force recommends increasing funding for continuing adult education at BOCES to expand current programming and access;
Increase funding for the Next Generation Job Linkage program and enact the HIRE program: The task force recommends increased support for the state’s Job Linkage program to foster direct links between community college training programs and the needs of local employers. In addition, the state should enact the Help Individuals Reach Employment (HIRE) program – first proposed in the senate’s 2015-16 one-house budget - to connect recent graduates with certificate programs. A qualified applicant who graduates from SUNY, but cannot find full-time employment could apply for a certificate program to enhance their employment marketability. Such certificate programs would be tailored to job market needs and be made available to all eligible applicants free of charge, either on campus or online.