The availability of a strong workforce is one of the top issues for companies as they assess where to expand their operations. Since 2016 Site Selectors Guild, which is made up of the world’s most prominent site selection consultants, has ranked workforce development as the top issue as it relates to site selection decision making. In a member survey, the group found that skills and talent availability are critical to the site selection process and that communities need to begin to address workforce shortages early to stay competitive in the market.
The need to expand the community’s labor force and develop demand skills has become a critical need across the country. The problem is multifaceted and to find appropriate solutions one must consider the community’s shifting demographics and issues such the aging of the population, area birth rates, the migration of the population to and from the local area, and the impact of immigration policies. Effective policies also need to take into consideration the impact the current public education and training policies have on creating a replacement pool for demand occupations.
Because of this the Steuben County IDA led an effort through the I86 Innovation Corridor to undertake a planning initiative with our regional economic development and workforce partners to develop a comprehensive workforce development strategy for Chemung, Schuyler and Steuben counties. The I-86 report took an in depth look at the community’s workforce demographics, industry trends and education assets to determine where efforts need to be focused to meet the labor challenges of the future. The report found the region will have a need for 7,380 new employees by 2024 to meet the projected demand of existing businesses. The greatest needs are projected to be in office and administrative support, healthcare, transportation, and material moving.
To help overcome this demand, the I86 efforts developed a series of strategies including, K-12 Pipeline Programming and Structure, Career Awareness and Labor Force Engagement, Post-Secondary Pipeline and Structure, Talent Attraction and Retention, and Coordination and Implementation. To help drive this strategy, the three counties and their respective economic development organizations funded a Workforce Director position which was filled by Fred Arcuri in February of this year.
The State of New York also recognizes the challenges the lack of a qualified workforce creates in attracting new investment. As a result Governor Cuomo recently announced the launch of the Workforce Development Initiative, which invests $175 million statewide for workforce development to support strategic regional efforts that meet businesses' short-term workforce needs, improve regional talent pipelines, enhance the flexibility and adaptability of local workforce entities, expand apprenticeships and address the long-term needs of growing industries.
In recognition of the varied workforce development challenges faced across the state, a range of projects will be eligible for funding. The focus will be on regionally significant industries in emerging fields with growing demands for jobs, including those in clean energy, life science, computer science and advanced technologies. All projects and activities must be consistent with the region's workforce development plans. Regional Councils will focus on supporting strategic regional efforts that meet businesses' near-term workforce needs, address long-term industry needs, enhance the flexibility and adaptability of local workforce entities, improve regional talent pipelines and expand apprenticeships. More details on the funding and eligible projects can be found at https://www.ny.gov/workforcedevelopment, by contacting Fred Arcuri at (607) 368-2907 or by talking to any workforce development partner or training provider.
Addressing the workforce challenges faced by the community will not occur overnight, but workforce development must remain a priority for the region to stay ahead of the competition. The development of a system that meets workforce demands and is flexible enough to respond to opportunities of a rapidly changing economy will set the community apart from its competition in the attraction of new investment to the region.