Manufacturers of all sizes in WNY are facing significant difficulties finding qualified employees. The industry currently employs around 50,000 people in the region, but the NYS Department of Labor (DoL) forecasts 17,000 job vacancies by 2020, due to combined effects from employee retirements and industry expansion. To fill these gaps, employers, current employees looking to upskill to apply for better paying manufacturing jobs, and students looking to enter the field are increasingly looking to certificate programs, which are now the fastest growing credential in secondary education.
In our 2017 Advocacy Agenda the Buffalo Niagara Partnership is advocating for specific policy actions for the upcoming year that will expand access to certificates and training, including:
- Expanding the Pell Grant program by supporting the JOBS Act of 2015 to allow greater access and flexibility for certificate program funding. This expansion would allow individuals to be adequately trained for open positions by making short-term occupational certificate programs eligible for grants and allowing demand-driven, non-credit programs to be eligible for grants.
With certificate programs now the fastest growing credential in postsecondary education, it is essential to revise federal requirements for financial aid to include short-term and non-credit programs. As certificate programs tend to have a higher completion rate than associate degree programs, while also increasing an individual’s employability, more candidates are able to quickly and more efficiently enter the workforce prepared for a specific career.
- Supporting the Perkins Modernization Act to improve training for Career and Technical Education (CTE) students. A reauthorized version of Perkins should align CTE programs to the needs of the regional, state, and local labor market, support effective and meaningful collaboration between secondary and postsecondary institutions and employers and increase student participation in experiential learning opportunities such as industry internships, apprenticeships and mentorships.
These improvements will more effectively spend federal dollars to help our nation’s students acquire the industry recognized skills and credentials that they need to be successful in today’s workforce.
On the local level, the Advocacy Agenda continues to encourage city and council leaders to appoint private sector employer representatives to the Workforce Investment Board (WIB). The Partnership believes the current lack of private sector employer representatives misses a significant opportunity to better align WIB funding and programs with the needs of the local labor market.
WIBs are the creation of federal legislation and are directed to include board members based on the nominations of local business and trade organizations. Increasing private sector employer representatives on our local WIBs’ is critical to the goal of directing resources to train job seeks for in demand jobs industries that have high and immediate need such as advanced manufacturing, clean tech, and tourism.
The Partnership continues to advance candidates with a clear understanding of current and future workforce issues, as well as the hiring needs of local target industries. In addition, the Partnership’s candidates boast strong track records of hiring minorities and women, and are passionate about the success of our community at-large. We will continue to push for additional appointments in 2017.
All of the Partnership’s workforce development advocacy is focused on helping employers find and retain qualified employees, and creating an inclusive workforce for all those in our community who want to obtain skilled employment and higher wages.
For more about our workforce development work
For more information on where the Partnership stands on workforce development issues, visit our full 2017 Advocacy Agenda.