Workforce development is key to fostering opportunities to expand our community’s ever-evolving diverse workforce, from traditional pathways to innovative and emerging ways that promote economic growth. In collaboration with community partners, the Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties is committed to developing a thriving labor force in growing industries through a continuing workforce development commitment.
In 2020, the Community Foundation Board of Trustees initiated the commitment, approving a partnership with Mohawk Valley EDGE and others to allocate $1 million for workforce development projects through 2023. The continuing goal is to strengthen the existing education-to-workforce pipeline by engaging educational institutions and industry partners to:
· Identify, address and fill employer needs, as well as education and training gaps
· Reach at-risk populations and identify pathways that will help them qualify for employment opportunities
· Identify best practices used for career readiness, expanding their reach and impact through coordination of efforts
· Develop and coordinate the implementation and maintenance of a regional recruitment strategy to attract and retain critical workforce capacity
The Mohawk Valley region is growing rapidly. In addition to longstanding places like Indium Corporation, Special Metals and the Griffiss Business and Technology Park, new companies like Wolfspeed are planting their roots here, making the area a major semiconductor and innovation hub. With that came the need to educate and prepare a skilled workforce that can support this growth now and in the future. That’s where the education-to-workforce pipeline comes into play, and this was the real driver behind the workforce development commitment that was made.
Since 2020, funding has been awarded to six programs and projects to enhance the Mohawk Valley’s reputation as a great place to work and to help connect students to the workforce. The impact of these projects is enhanced by the many other investments made by the Community Foundation annually, including support for programs like Young Scholars Liberty Partnership Program and On Point for College.
What’s Upstate, a website developed by the Greater Utica Area Chamber of Commerce, actively promotes the area to prospective residents looking to relocate for career opportunities and other reasons. It also serves as a resource for newly arrived residents. The site is a virtual roadmap to living, working and playing in Upstate New York—a vibrant, versatile and dynamic region. Visitors may also subscribe to the site’s monthly newsletter to stay informed about what’s happening across the region.
Funding for the Mohawk Valley Community College (MVCC) Manufacturing Systems Lab was granted to support a fully functional manufacturing lab to provide workforce development training for local students and job seekers by teaching skills in material handling, pump and chiller repair and other areas that are broadly transferable to support the production capacity of manufacturers.
MVCC’s MV Tech Corps is an equal opportunity program that trains students in technology and trade industries for jobs and careers in demand regionally. Courses offered include mechatronics, welding, carpentry, masonry, HVAC and more.
HerkimerCanCode designs and delivers education and training programs to prepare individuals for careers as software coders, developers and engineers, which is in alignment with the needs of local employers, educators and the community in general. The effort also provides hands on K-12 coding programs to begin this type of education at an early age.
Funds allocated to the MVCC Mechatronics Training Lab contributed to renovations of two existing classrooms on the MVCC Rome Campus to allow for the operation of the college’s industry-specific 80-hour semiconductor training program.
MVCC’s Fast Track Program aims to provide short-term training experiences offered at no cost to students. Those enrolled in the program will receive training in areas like mechatronics, welding, manufacturing and other areas and after less than a year, will be able to use those acquired skills to find a career locally. The Fast Track program’s student population tends to be much more racially diverse and older than the College’s traditional population which provides evidence that the Fast Track program is doing well at engaging its target population.
The four-year initial commitment made in 2020 concludes this year, but the need for workforce development continues. To address this, the Community Foundation has committed $500,000 to a second phase of this initiative that will launch in 2024 and be active through 2026.
The second phase of the initiative will continue to support education and training of local individuals by partnering with organizations that focus on career development.
Many of our investments are multi-faceted, especially grants related to education and economic development, which ultimately support workforce development even when granted outside of the initiative’s scope. In total, the investment made in workforce development is exponentially more than the $1.5 million just for this initiative.
With the expected growth happening in our region, it is important to work directly with new and existing businesses to ensure that their prospective employees receive a comprehensive introduction to the Mohawk Valley and all that it has to offer. We will continue to identify, support and enhance workforce recruitment and retention strategies aimed at supporting the continuing revitalization of the regional economy.