ALBANY, N.Y. /New York Netwire/ — This past week (Dec. 14, 2018), NY Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced $4.2 million in funding from the first round the Western New York Workforce Development Challenge has been awarded to six local not-for-profit organizations. The program will ensure the region’s workforce pipeline meets industry demands in sectors such as advanced manufacturing, health and life sciences, and energy. The grants will be administered by the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo and Empire State Development, the state’s economic development agency.

NY Governor Andrew Cuomo

“Workforce development is critical to any thriving economy, and this funding will provide local not-for-profits the resources they need to train workers in the jobs of the future,” Governor Cuomo said. “With these investments, we are providing New Yorkers with the skills necessary to meet the demands of a 21st century economy and at the same time encouraging businesses to continue investing in Western New York.”

“Investing in our workforce is essential for continued growth in Buffalo and Western New York,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who made today’s announcement. “In order to keep up with the needs of the labor market, New York must lead the way to train workers in advanced manufacturing, health care, and energy to close the skills gap and create a pipeline of talent for employers. The Workforce Development Challenge Awards will target resources to ensure training is available across Western New York for good-paying jobs that will move our economy forward.”

The $10 million program is designed to promote and invest in innovative approaches to workforce training for underserved populations throughout Western New York. The Workforce Development Challenge will help increase the capacity of community-based trainers who have proven track records, trusted community relationships, and outstanding abilities for outreach and recruitment. In addition, it will support programs in the region’s target sectors currently experiencing growth, including advanced manufacturing, health and life sciences, tourism, energy, and agriculture by providing training for unemployed, underemployed, and/or career ladder opportunities for entry-level and mid-skill workers. It funds best practice models that maximize collaboration between business and workforce trainers.

Projects to be Funded:

Prosperity Strategy to Build a Sustainable Niagara County Workforce

Organization: Adult Educational Opportunity Center of Genesee Community College/Orleans-Niagara BOCES

WDC Award Amount/Total Project Cost: $1,229,667/$5,764,618

Description: ONBOCES celebrated the opening of a new Workforce Training Center in Niagara Falls in July 2018, and will be opening a location in Lockport in Fall 2018. With funding from the WDC, they will be able to expand services provided at both facilities to include training in machining, welding, and HVAC. Trainees who complete the program will be eligible to obtain certifications (OSHA, NIMS, etc.) in their field. Through partnering with AEOC, the facility will be able to provide support services for its trainees including case managers who will help provide solutions for addressing barriers to success. Funding will be used to purchase equipment for training, building improvements, personnel, and program recruitment.

Number of People Trained: 75 in year one; anticipated to grow to 170 per year

Job Placement Expectations: Minimum 35 per year

Project Location: Niagara Falls and Lockport, Niagara County

Health Careers Academy & Training Center

Organization: Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES Educational Foundation

WDC Award Amount/Total Project Cost: $504,877/$685,987

Description: This program will provide career pathways in the healthcare industry by providing training to high school students and adults in the areas of Certified Nursing Assistant, Personal Care Aide, and Home Health Aide – all seen as starting points in the health care field. CNA and HHA programs will provide stackable skillsets and feeders into a Licensed Practical Nurse training program. Additional training opportunities will be available for Phlebotomy Technicians and Bilingual Medical Transcriptionists, both important careers in this geography. Successful graduates will be able to take certification exams. Support services including financial assistance, childcare, transportation, and professional skills training will be available.

Job Placement Expectations: 95 percent of trainees, or 213 people

Project Location: Fredonia, Chautauqua County

Gerard Place Workforce Development Center

Organization: Gerard Place

WDC Award Amount/Total Project Cost: $594,819/$4,735,681

Description: Training will be provided for Certified Nursing Assistants, Home Healthcare Aides, and Licensed Practical Nurses. The program will provide job skills and lead to certifications and licensures necessary to move into employment opportunities. Trainees will be able to take advantage of the support services of the Gerard Place Educational and Community Center, and work with case aides who will help identify and connect them to resources.

Job Placement Expectations: 250 per year

Project Location: Buffalo, Erie County

New Hope Innovative Health Career Center

Organization: Harvest House

WDC Award Amount/Total Project Cost: $284,970/$524,775

Description: This project will expand the program offerings in various training topics to establish an Innovative Health Career Center, upgrading the existing facility to include a state-of-the-art lab, equipment, and simulators, and computer lab with advanced software. The WDC funding will also allow Harvest House to expand its support services. Funds will provide medical care for trainees, transportation vouchers, child care assistance, and the ability to work with career coaches. Expanded health technology program training will also allow Harvest House to provide new services through clinical internships. In all, training will be available for Certified Nursing Assistant, Home Health Aide, Personal Care Aide, Licensed Practical Nurse, Pharmacy Technician, Health Information Technician, and Phlebotomy.

Job Placement Expectations: 288 per year

Project Location: Buffalo, Erie County

ATHOS: A Rural Innovative Training Opportunity

Organization: WNY Rural Area Health Education Center Inc. (R-AHEC)

WDC Award Amount/Total Project Cost: $388,979/$429,616

Description: This project will develop a care coordination training program that will serve the rural, medically-underserved communities and the local healthcare industry through an expansion of the ATHOS training program. Rural training will be developed and expanded into online modules, and will offer opportunities for direct classroom or a hybrid program as needed by the industry partner. The key focus of the curriculum is to educate individuals on techniques to enhance patient-centered care, improve the delivery of healthcare services, enhance professional behavior in the workplace, and advance individuals in growing their healthcare career. An advisory group of community healthcare providers, workforce investment boards, and community members will help to identify resources to support and assist participants in overcoming barriers to completion, and monitor curriculum and job placement activities.

Job Placement Expectations: At least 50 percent of annual trainees

Project Location: All five counties

PUSH Community Energy Workforce Development Project

Organization: People United for Sustainable Housing, Inc. (PUSH Buffalo)

WDC Award Amount/Total Project Cost: $1,200,000/$3,046,650

Description: This project will increase the capacity of PUSH’s Community Hiring Hall to train and place workers in the renewable energy sector, build a sustainable training center to house PUSH’s workforce development programs, develop a training curriculum that meets the needs of the renewable energy sector, and build a community solar array. A new Director of Social Enterprise will also oversee providing worker supports to the trainees. Trainees will be able to test for industry certifications upon completion of the program.

Job Placement Expectations: 20 per year, with potential for expansion in later years of the program

Project Location: Buffalo, Erie County

A second round of applications will be reviewed in 2019. Not-for-profit organizations in Erie, Niagara, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Allegany counties could be eligible to receive at least $250,000 for workforce development. Additional information can be found here.

Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, “By promoting and investing in innovative and results-oriented approaches to workforce training in Western New York, the Workforce Development Challenge will help to ensure the region’s talent pool is keeping up with the higher-demand, higher-paying jobs that are a sign of continued growth in the area.”

Research indicates that employers in high-demand, higher-paying industries need to rapidly identify pools of skilled workers and training programs that meet their needs, and over the long-term, influence the skills of the workforce pipeline to better align their needs. The most recent research on the labor market in the region included an employer survey showing the majority of companies in Buffalo Niagara report a number of hard-to-fill jobs or hard-to-find skills, suggesting the supply of labor could be better matched to industry needs. Jobs that are difficult to fill today and the skills that are challenging for employers to find will be compounded as industries across the region grow. Many industry sectors in the region experienced double-digit job growth over the past five years, and over the next five years, many industries can expect to fill thousands of job openings across the region annually. The region also faces a looming retirement cliff that will impact the labor supply.

Considering these challenges, the state has already made significant investments in workforce development efforts and will increase those investments going forward. To date, these workforce development efforts have largely focused on growing the much-needed workforce pipeline in the manufacturing sector. Ongoing investments in the new Workforce Training Center at Northland, located on Buffalo’s East Side in the Northland Corridor, will create economic onramps to training, apprenticeships and career placement for manufacturing and energy sectors. Applying research and best-practices learned through these efforts, the WDC will leverage and build upon the workforce development already happening in the community and will up-skill underserved populations to meet the needs of growing industry sectors, providing opportunities for the workforce throughout all five counties of Western New York.