This bill proposes to repeal an existing section of the Urban Development Corporation Act where the statutory authority for the Strategic Training Alliance Program (STRAP) exists and add a new section to the Economic Development Law, creating a modernized version of STRAP. The legislation would establish a program of targeted state economic development assistance to address the demand for skilled workers as well as addressing the employment needs of the state's emerging workforce. The legislation contains no appropriation authority.
The Business Council has a long history of supporting investment in workforce skills as a means of attracting and retaining a qualified workforce and supports this bill.
As proposed, the legislation requires that fifty percent of funds be expended to benefit the workforce training needs of small businesses. This targeted investment is important, as small businesses are less likely to have well-developed human resources units to plan, develop and grow their workforce skills. The opportunity to coordinate those training needs with other similarly situated businesses creates a level of efficiency and effectiveness that has proven valuable. The language which seeks to leverage telecommunication, computer or information technologies as a means to broaden participation in workforce education is particularly valuable, as it recognizes the benefit of using technology to increase access to workforce skills training.
The bill also provides that twenty-five percent of funds be utilized to assist individuals who are unemployed, economically disadvantaged or eligible to participate in federally funded workforce training programs. In an era of limited resources, it would be preferable that language be included that requires a coordination of benefits for individuals to be trained, rather than language which constrains the use of funds to targeted populations eligible for other funding streams.
It is worth noting that, as proposed, the STRAP model targets 75% of its investments to small businesses and targeted populations. This reflects an important part of New York's overall economy, but is not representative of the overall existing need for the investment or the services needed to keep New York's workforce competitive. The language which defines a “training area” may prove particularly burdensome, as the marketplace becomes more distributed and businesses are able to deploy capabilities well beyond a given geography. Sectoral and supply chain business strategies which often benefit from coordinated skill development do not necessarily align neatly with defined geographic boundaries.
The Business Council would support the Legislature taking a broader policy view of workforce development to create policies which better align the vast array of federal and state resources available to support coordinated workforce skill development in New York State.
The Business Council supports this legislation and stands ready to work with the Legislature to address broader issues related to skill development, workforce attraction and retention as part of an overall business and economic growth strategy.