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For Release — February 24, 2017

PPI releases examination of STEM skills gap survey
Report offers solutions to the real problems the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) skills gap creates, including holding back economic growth and preventing our youth from finding success

ALBANY, N.Y.—The Public Policy Institute of New York State, Inc. (PPI), today released a detailed report entitled, “Bridging the STEM skills gap: Employer/educator collaboration in New York”, which examines the findings of a PPI-sponsored employer survey focused on the skills gap, and offers solutions to close the gap.

“The study had multiple purposes. First, we wanted to gather data on the challenges our state’s employers face in hiring skilled ‘new-collar’ workers. Which STEM jobs are hardest to fill? Which skills and credentials are hardest to find,” said Allison Armour-Garb, senior fellow for PPI. “Secondly, we conducted interviews with leading experts from New York’s business community to find out how employers are addressing the skills gap through innovative partnerships with education institutions. Our ultimate goal was to distill lessons in order to inform the decision-making of businesses and policymakers as they develop strategies to strengthen our state’s workforce.”

From the report:

New York created close to 100,000 jobs between December 2015 and December 2016. Yet in many regions of the state the population is not growing, which means that employers who want to fill jobs are increasingly forced to select from the existing pool of potential workers. Executives reported the highest difficulty filling positions in Western New York, followed by the Southern Tier, the Capital Region, and the Finger Lakes.

STEM jobs are growing at a faster rate than overall employment and require higher skill levels than do many jobs in retail, food service, and hospitality. Executives responding to the 2017 Public Policy Institute survey reported that health occupations and skilled production—both of which are STEM fields—are the categories in which they had the largest numbers of job openings in 2016.

Virtually all of the survey respondents said either that their company has been collaborating with an education institution or would be interested in doing so. When asked what motivates such collaborations, employers said that improving the skills of current employees and building a pipeline to recruit future employees were equally important.

The report looks at the features of successful partnerships and contains the latest outcome data for the NYS P-TECH program.

“I want to thank Allison and the survey respondents for participating in this critical analysis,” said Heather C. Briccetti, Esq., president and CEO of The Business Council of New York State, Inc. “Now we must bring business, educators and lawmakers together to find a solution to this glaring problem. Not only are we leaving our children ill-equipped for the workforce of today, we are also causing significant and unnecessary financial harm to our state’s economy.”

“Education cannot be successful with K-12 educators working on their own,” said Stanley S. Litow, IBM’s Vice President of Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs and President of IBM’s Foundation. “And I say this as a former Deputy Chancellor in New York City. Higher education cannot be successful without deep collaboration with the K-12 system. And the missing piece is employers. We need to work together to improve college readiness and completion, and to ensure there are a variety of options for students to have careers that are important to them and to New York State. Employers can’t sit back and say we wish education were better. We need to roll up our sleeves and help.”

In summary, the report concludes:

As technology evolves, the skills that STEM employers seek are changing faster than our education system has adapted to meet them. Thus, the skills gap—a divide between the skills employers need and the skills workers possess—is a threat to New York’s competitiveness in the global economy. Caught in the crunch, New York’s employers have taken the lead in investing in and partnering with education and training providers, in order to maximize the potential of workers in their own communities.
The next move for policymakers is to take a step back and ask how government can best support the expansion of this trend on a systemic level.

The research identified five key steps for policymakers seeking to make New York a leader in bridging the skills gap:

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The full report can be viewed here: http://www.ppinys.org/reports/2017/PPI-Skills-Gap-Report.pdf

Funding for this project was provided by the Verizon Foundation. Headquartered in New York State, Verizon has a diverse workforce of nearly 162,700 and generated nearly $132 billion in 2015 revenues. Verizon operates America’s most reliable wireless network, with 113.2 million retail connections nationwide. The company also provides communications and entertainment services over mobile broadband and the nation’s premier all-fiber network, and delivers integrated business solutions to customers worldwide.

Founded in 1981, The Public Policy Institute is a research and educational organization whose purpose is to formulate and promote public policies that will restore New York's economic competitiveness. The Institute accomplishes this mission by conducting timely, in-depth research addressing key state policy issues.

Governed by an independent Board of Trustees, The Institute is a non-partisan, tax-exempt organization. The Institute depends on the support of corporations, individuals, and foundations for its income, and does not accept any government funding.

The Institute is affiliated with The Business Council of New York State, Inc.