Solutions to employment barriers are focus of coalition meeting

It’s one thing for an individual to find a job. It’s another to find a way to get to that job.

That was the driving topic at Employ Buffalo Niagara’s November meeting where a diverse group of community leaders came together to discuss struggles faced by many area workers. A panel of representatives from local employers led a presentation on recent efforts to improve access to jobs through transportation initiatives aimed at getting people to work.

Panel members from McGard, Astronics, Rosina Foods, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and the Cheektowaga Chamber of Commerce each gave their unique perspective on the adverse effects transportation barriers have on workforce development.

Changing shift times, locations away from bus routes, and financial challenges of owning a car are just a few of the problems that keep employees from working. The panel companies each described their efforts to address these challenges.  Two of the companies worked together during a four-month period to come up with some innovative strategies to address the barriers, and implemented some pilot tests of their ideas. They quickly discovered there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

“This is a complicated issue that will require tailored solutions as often employees in the same organization can have unique requirements around transportation, from the time they start work, to their distance from the job, to their proximity to a bus route,” explained Laura Smith, Executive Director of the Coalition and vice president of economic development at the Buffalo Niagara Partnership. “The panel companies are in the process of finding solutions to this critical and ever-increasing challenge in workforce development.”

Some initiatives set forth by the panel included discussions with the NFTA to add bus lines and arrange schedules to better accommodate workers in the city who must travel to the southtowns or northtowns for their job. The reality is, many companies operate 24/7 with two or three shifts, and it’s just not possible for public transportation to meet all those schedule requirements.

Some of the panel companies have also run a pilot program together with a private bus company to pick up employees in the city with a regular route to and from the different workplaces. The program depends on meeting certain ridership numbers and panel members said there are still some logistics to iron out. Other ideas include ride-sharing programs specific to a company’s needs; working with other non-profits such as churches to see if there are ride-sharing opportunities; and communicating with more employers to broaden the transportation initiatives to a larger base.

Employ Buffalo Niagara would like to thank our panel members for their efforts and insights into job access and transportation issues.

 

Employ Buffalo Niagara connects employers with the talent they need, while helping to remove barriers to full employment for the underemployed, with a focus on the working poor. Click here for more information.