The Industry First Campaign, an effort to fill middle-level jobs with properly trained people, was launched Thursday by the regional BOCES, area business leaders, and state and federal representatives.
“The shortage of skilled labor is significant,” said James Dexter, superintendent of the Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex Board of Cooperative Educational Services.
Industry First is an attempt to cultivate relationships between the private and public sectors to fill what Dexter called the “growing skills gap” within the workforce.
Dexter said as members of the Baby Boom generation retire, they leave middle-level skill jobs in a variety of trades open, and replacements are hard to find.
U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, state Sen. Roy McDonald, R-Saratoga, and assemblymen James Tedisco, R-Glenville, and Tony Jordan, R-Greenwich, joined area educators in endorsing the new program at the F. Donald Myers BOCES Education Center in Saratoga Springs.
“We have the world’s most productive workforce,” Gibson said. But he said they need better training to meet the changing demands of the 21st century.
“This BOCES program is the right step forward,” Gibson said.
An Industry First Council composed of regional leaders in education, business, industry and workforce and economic development is the first step in the project. The council will focus on raising awareness of the skills gap and the need to elevate the skilled trades as viable and lucrative careers.
McDonald said that for the region and the state to get out of the current economic downturn, “we are going to have work our way out of it.”
The regional BOCES currently has specialized training programs that prepare students, as well as unemployed adults seeking a new job, for the changing world of work.
A middle-level skill job is defined as one that requires more than a high school diploma but not a four-year degree. In 2009, some 46 percent of the jobs in New York state were middle-skill jobs but only 39 percent of the workforce had the education and training required to fill these positions, said Douglas Leavens, director of BOCES career and technical education.
Researchers estimate that increasing the number of adults with middle-level skill credentials by 10 percent across the country would increase federal tax revenue by $14 billion and would save the federal government up to $2,500 per person through reduced reliance on public assistance programs, according to information released by BOCES.
For more information, see www.wswheboces.org.