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Legislative Memo

SUBJECT:

Proposal for $175 million investment in workforce development

SUPPORT
with amendments

DATE:

January 30, 2018

 

The Business Council of New York State strongly supports the State’s commitment to increase funding for, and improve delivery of, workforce development programs.

In doing so, it is crucial that the State prioritize programs for funding that have proven outcomes and are industry driven.

The Governor’s state of the state message recommended a new, $175 million workforce development program that would be implemented through the Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) process, with involvement of the Regional Economic Development Councils (REDC).

However, the Executive Budget does not contain any specific language to create, or direct these funds to, an improved workforce development program. We urge the Administration and legislature to work with business and other stakeholders to develop this program during the current budget adoption cycle.

We welcome regional input into this new program, however we would strongly recommend that the new program have an open application process, with timely approvals throughout the year, rather than a single annual approval process as now done with REDC funding.

Employers who have a need for skilled employee training are looking for programs that can fill their workforce needs today. With tens of thousands of open positions in health care, information technology and advanced manufacturing across the state, many of which require a two year degree or less, New York State’s employers don’t have over seven months to wait to find out if they can get funding for training programs, nor can they postpone necessary hiring in that time.

We would encourage the State to look at best practices in workforce development programs which are industry driven, can get off the ground quickly, and connect trainees directly to employers. One such program that is operated statewide with great success, proven outcomes, and insatiable demand is the Workforce Development Institute (WDI), and the programs their funding supports. WDI funds workforce training programs that are directly tied to regional employers, based on their needs. Our members across the state see WDI as a tremendous asset for workforce training needs and believe they provide and exemplary model in connecting employers with workforce training programs and a skilled workforce.

We believe the creation of the new Office of Workforce Development, to serve as a point of accountability and coordination for workforce training programs, headed by a new Director of Workforce Development, will be a useful asset to ensure State funding is used for the highest value programs with strong performance metrics. For too long State funding has been spent on workforce training programs with minimal accountability or transparency.

This new office should also be the mechanism through which the $175 million for the new CFA for workforce development should be distributed. The office could still work closely with the REDCs to ensure regional alignment, but if it was able to operate outside of the CFA process, and provide grants on a rolling basis, it would better align with the cycle of business and workforce training needs.

We have heard from many of our members that New York State’s workforce programs are difficult to access and navigate, and many New Yorkers just don’t know where to find access to training programs that provide well-paying jobs. Therefore, the creation of a new “One-Stop Shop for all New York's Workforce” which can provide both businesses and job seekers straightforward and useful information in an online portal is something we fully support. We have seen great examples of other states with robust and easy to navigate platforms and look forward to New York’s utilization of these software tools.

In our work across New York State, we have identified a number of best practices in education and workforce development, one of which is the data analytics center run out of Monroe Community College (MCC). For too long, workforce training programs have been informed by anecdotal information. The data analytics platform used to inform MCC programming is well positioned to be scaled throughout the state and will empower education institutions with the hard data they need for programming decisions.

We strongly support scaling this model to ensure the workforce needs of industries across the state are met.

A major challenge for many businesses across New York State is the inability to find a skilled workforce. As such, the Business Council supports new investments and resources for workforce development in New York State, with priority for programs that are industry driven, with strong performance metrics.