By Joel Wood
At the beginning of January, our friends at the New York Association of Training and Employment Professionals (NYATEP) released their 2022 State of the Workforce report. Each year we look forward to reading their thorough report and this year was no different.
The report detailed a lot of what we already know – while there remains healthy job creation/growth across all industry sectors of the North Country and state, we continue to face a historically tight labor market, compounded by low unemployment rates and outmigration. And while there is no silver bullet solution to these challenges, we can work, to make things easier for our members and regional employers.
As we have done in the past, the Chamber recently set our strategic priorities for 2023 which included three key areas: the Quebec-NY Corridor/Green Transportation Economy, Government Affairs, and Human Capital.
The Human Capital leg of our strategy reinforces our commitment to addressing the shortage of employees in all industry sectors of the North Country by working with employers to recruit and build a skilled workforce. This includes training initiatives, support of essential workforce services like childcare, and more.
Let’s dive into the specifics of some of the exciting workforce development initiatives that are both ongoing and planned for this year.
Enhanced and Expanded On-the-Job Training Program
The Chamber has operated a popular and effective On-the-Job training (OJT) program with state support for many years, but with the growing shortage of available workers, we realized we needed to expand every possible tool to maximize the region’s labor pool. A much-expanded OJT program with available funding for support during training is one of those tools, helping people learn the skills needed for new jobs and helping employers design tailored training and overseeing the process.
Last year, the Chamber submitted a proposal to Senator Schumer and Congresswoman Stefanik for federal funding to expand and enhance our OJT program and we are proud to announce that the recently passed FY 2023 Omnibus Appropriations Bill included an award of $500,000 through the U.S. Labor Department. This funding will allow us to work with more employers than ever before and also offer “wrap-around” support services such as childcare and transportation for program participants.
Both legislators supported this funding proposal, sponsored its inclusion in the Senate and House appropriations process, and then saw that it was in the final bill. We can’t thank them enough for their confidence and support and we now look forward to moving ahead with this much expanded initiative which we hope to kick off in the near future.
The Chamber also successfully secured a $285,600 grant from the Northern Border Regional Commission with the support of Congresswoman Stefanik, Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, and Governor Hochul for specialized welding training in partnership with Clinton Community College and Lincoln Electric for several area manufacturers.
The program will offer no-cost welding training for up to 50 individuals in our community that will consist of 120 hours of instruction. Trainees will also receive all necessary PPE (welding mask, helmet, gloves, etc) at no-cost thanks to a grant from our partners at the Workforce Development Institute.
We are pursuing funding from Empire State Development’s new Office of Strategic Workforce Development which we hope will allow us to offer stipends and wrap-around services to select enrolled trainees. We expect to hear a funding decision in February.
The first training session will run from April 24th through May 12th (Monday through Friday from 7:30am – 3:30pm) with additional sessions to run in Fall 2023 and Spring/Fall 2024. Registration is now open. Contact Joel Wood at the Chamber to learn more and to sign-up.
Leadership and Digital Marketing Training
One of the requests that we hear most often from our members is for “soft” skills training – how to be an effective leader in the workplace, time management, stress management, etc. That’s why for the third consecutive year, the Chamber is pleased to offer leadership and digital marketing training workshop programs for small business owners, employees, and entrepreneurs. This program is made possible by funding from the United States Department of Agriculture Office of Rural Development and the Workforce Development Institute.
Year after year this program quickly fills up and always receives glowing reviews from attendees. For the first time however, we have decided to expand the geographic scope of the program and have done so by partnering with the Ticonderoga Area Chamber of Commerce (TACC) and Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe to bring this important training to our partner members and businesses in their communities.
The first session of classes will be held in Ticonderoga beginning on February 28th – with additional sessions to be held in Plattsburgh and Akwesasne in Summer and Fall 2023 respectively. For more information or to sign-up, contact Aaron Fregeau at the Chamber.
And if that wasn’t enough, the Chamber is also a partner in the North Country Regional Workforce Development Board’s Authentic STEM program and expects to launch other targeted programs in the coming months.
Joel Wood is Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and Director of the North American Center of Excellence for Transportation Equipment (NAmTrans) at the North Country Chamber of Commerce.