A state Office of Strategic Workforce Development has been created that is charged with improving the programs and practices to better align with the needs and priorities of today’s employers.
Gov. Kathy Hochul proposed the new office in her State of the State address earlier this year and committed funding that was approved in the state budget.
The $350 million investment in state funding will support wide-reaching, historic and coordinated investment in workforce development across state agencies and authorities and includes $150 million in multi-year funding for new grant programs that will primarily support employer-driven, high skilled workforce training programs.
“New Yorkers are still struggling to find work and opportunity due to the economic disruption of the pandemic,” Hochul said. “This issue is personal to me. I’ve seen steel plants close leaving workers with nowhere to go. With our brand new Office of Strategic Workforce Development, we are doubling down on our commitment to help train and connect New Yorkers with the good-paying jobs of the future.”
Empire State Development Acting Commissioner and President and CEO-designate Hope Knight said the new office will optimize ESD’s relationships with the state’s industries and employers “to generate new opportunities for New Yorkers and encourage regional economic growth. Together with our State University system and our agency partners, we can provide businesses with a talent pipeline to catalyze new investments throughout the state.”
The Office of Strategic Workforce Development will function under Empire State Development (ESD), marking a change in workforce development policy to one that is laser-focused on supporting the labor needs of the state’s highest-growth sectors while producing new economic opportunity for un/underemployed and underrepresented workers. ESD will manage the Office in close coordination with agency partners, including the Department of Labor, the SUNY system, and the City University of New York, among others, with a track record of delivering successful workforce training programs.
The new office will leverage ESD’s relationships with employers throughout the state and its standing as a trusted partner in the business community to help identify employer needs early and train New Yorkers to meet those needs, officials said.
To launch this effort, New York State, in partnership with the Business Council of New York State, has developed a comprehensive online survey to solicit vital feedback from businesses on the skills required for workers to be successful in today’s complex economy, and how New York can prepare and position its labor force to better serve companies’ needs.
Officials said the demand-driven approach will ensure that New York has access to real-time feedback on in-demand jobs and skills to inform its statewide and regional workforce development efforts.
ESD will work hand-in-hand with the state’s 10 Regional Economic Development Councils, which will engage with local stakeholders and help to identify specific skills and industries to prioritize in each region in the post-pandemic economy. The Regional Councils’ local expertise will help ensure each region’s workforce training programs are aware of current and evolving employer needs and allow local training providers to better align their programs to these priorities.
In addition to promoting an industry-driven strategy, ESD will also introduce and administer $150 million in new programs, aimed primarily at meeting high-skilled employer needs to fill in-demand jobs and complement the State’s existing workforce development efforts.
This programming will include performance-based grants for workforce training providers that successfully place trainees in quality jobs, flexible operating funds to help providers cover the costs of program administration, and capital funding to allow providers to make essential capital purchases and/or upgrades to their training facilities. To ensure flexibility to meet changing needs, funding will be available on a real-time, continual basis to generate a pipeline of new workers for regionally-significant industries. As these new programs are expected to launch later this year, the Office will also establish and maintain metrics for tracking the implementation and success of the programs.
Heather Briccetti, president & CEO of The Business Council of New York State, said, “We commend Governor Hochul on overhauling the state’s approach to workforce development to begin with business and industry, and focus on regional- and sector-based workforce solutions for state businesses. The new Office of Strategic Workforce Development will address the growing gap between available jobs and skilled workers, while creating a dynamic workforce skilled for growing industries in the state, and with promising career pathways.”