The Capital Region has an unusual dilemma. It has a burst of high-tech companies moving into the region, a growing reputation as a leader in the nanotechnology industry and lots of jobs to go with it. But what it doesn’t have are the bodies to fill them.
In fact, New York will likely face a shortage of 350,000 workers with mid-level skills by 2018.
Or so says America’s Edge, a national organization of business leaders whose local members released a 12-page report Tuesday at a news conference at the University at Albany’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering.
See the full report at www.americasedge.org.
“It’s no secret that the nanotech companies coming into the Capital Region will have trouble finding highly skilled workers to fill their job openings,” said John Cavalier, the now-retired CEO and founder of Tech Valley High. He is also a National Advisory Board member of America’s Edge.
The Capital Region isn’t alone in its lack of a highly skilled workforce. The rest of the nation is experiencing the same problem. But the report found that the recent influx of high-tech STEM companies into the region will exacerbate the dilemma unless a few steps are taken to close the region’s skills gap.
The state Labor Department is predicting a 71 percent increase in computer and electronic product manufacturing jobs in the Capital Region from 2010 to 2020. But 82 percent of the region’s manufacturers say they struggle to find qualified candidates.
For most employers, this means individuals with some type of formal education beyond high school. For employers with high-wage jobs to fill, this means an individual with at least a two-year degree. And for 93 percent of employers in science, technology, engineering and math occupations, this means an individual with a four-year degree.
But 23 percent of the state’s high school students fail to graduate on time, and only 37 percent of those who do are considered “college and career ready,” the report found.
In the Capital Region, 48 percent of Albany City School District students don’t graduate on time, followed by 43 percent of Schenectady City School District students.
“This is simply unsustainable if we are to compete and succeed in the global marketplace,” said Albany Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Eagan at Tuesday’s news conference.
The report urges school districts to fully implement the state’s Common Core Learning Standards and aligned assessments but asks the state to remain flexible in adopting innovative high school education models that prepare students for college and careers. It pointed to Tech Valley High and NanoHigh in Albany, as well as several local initiatives, as examples.
Girls Inc., for example, offers a Eureka! program to young women in Albany and Schenectady that encourages them to pursue careers in nanotechnology while teaching overall skills in leadership, financial literacy and community service.
The Smart Scholars Early College High School Program is another initiative working to shrink the skills gap.