Upstate New York is still experiencing a skills gap in regional labor forces with an estimated 50-thousand high-tech jobs still unfilled, many of them in the advanced manufacturing sector. The Washington D.C. -based think-tank, the Brookings Institution, has recently proposed a plan that would address the issue nationwide.
The Brookings proposal involves an annual competition for $150 million in federal funding to reform and modernize investments in workforce education and skills training for advanced manufacturing.
“I think it’s critical for upstate New York, it’s critical for the nation. There’s a gap, and we have companies constantly coming to us, just in terms of looking for machinists, our students are hired several times over. We’re not able to produce anywhere what the need is, and that’s only going to grow.”
Todd Oldham, vice president for economic development and innovative workforce services at Monroe Community College is supportive of the idea.
Oldham says a comprehensive approach would require incentives for both higher education institutions and industry partners to address the specific skills challenges of each region.
He says that many students continue to maintain outdated ideas of advanced manufacturing in the 21st century.
President of the SUNY Research Foundation, Tim Killeen says a skilled workforce is crucial to ensure the US is not left behind by global competitors in the sector.
“There has to be a good match between the high needs in the economic sector and the kind of training and educational curricula offerings that are made.”
Killeen says filling the skills gap would also ensure a higher rate of tech-transfer, the process of taking ideas and innovations and translating them into successful commercial products.
Governor Cuomo has emphasized the importance of tech-transfer in growing the upstate economy, most recently in his Billion for Buffalo plan and the State of the State address.