Workforce Development in WNY, One Step Ahead

BBillionBy Matthew Hubacher, Research Specialist

In his recent State of the Union address, President Barack Obama presented several strategies aimed at strengthening the nation’s economy and creating new jobs for the millions of Americans who continue to struggle to find work.  One specific initiative cited by the President was the creation of manufacturing innovation institutes that will provide workforce training and development.

Among the most cited concerns from manufacturers who seek to hire new workers is the persistent skills gap – the difference between the skills possessed by a prospective worker and the skills needed to fulfill the duties and responsibilities of an existing job opening – that exists across the economy, and is particularly acute in the manufacturing sector.  This mismatch of training and education makes it extremely difficult for low-skilled workers to find and retain employment in a 21st Century economy, particularly in manufacturing where technical skills are at a premium.

Western New York is leading the way in developing an innovative manufacturing hub where local workers can hone and learn new skills, which will ensure that the local workforce has the training for jobs in growing subsectors within manufacturing.  As part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion promise, the Western New York Regional Council, with assistance from researchers from McKinsey & Company, Brookings Institution, UB Regional Institute and Buffalo Niagara Enterprise, conducted an exhaustive review of value-added interventions that will assist the region’s workforce for the jobs of tomorrow.

Among the several innovative strategies outlined in the Regional Council’s Buffalo Billion Investment Development Plan is the creation of a state-of-the-art facility to support the region’s manufacturing sector.   The proposed facility, the Buffalo Niagara Institute for Advanced Manufacturing Competitiveness, would provide services to local manufacturers in four specific areas: applied research and development, process excellence, export assistance and workforce training.  Specifically around workforce development, the Institute would work with manufacturers to “upskill” their workforce to perform operations that are more complex by utilizing shared equipment to provide hands-on instruction to help early and mid-career workers learn the tasks demanded by advanced manufacturing processes.  This targeted manufacturing workforce development initiative is in addition to general proposals by the Regional Council to align training, skills and education in the labor force at large.

Buffalo Niagara is one step ahead when it comes to preparing our workers for the jobs of the 21st Century.  With the leadership of the WNY Regional Development Council and the support of Governor Cuomo, Buffalo Niagara will remain a region that “Works.”

About Jenna Kavanaugh

Director, Marketing & Communications Buffalo Niagara Enterprise

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