VIDEO: A new era of workforce training takes hold in Western New York

By Dan Miner
Buffalo Business First

Workforce development has been a critical issue in Western New York for many years, and there is nothing new about efforts to connect would-be workers to the needs of employers.

But there is also no questioning that a new workforce paradigm has taken hold among major players in Western New York, said Laura Smith, vice president of economic development at the Buffalo Niagara Partnership.

Public entities, business groups and other stakeholders are working together in an unprecedented way, and the result is a portfolio of programs that have broad support and seek to tackle specific issues.

A new era of workforce training takes hold in Western New York
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“It’s a much more targeted approach,” Smith said. “In the past we saw intermediaries trying to be everything to everyone, and it wasn’t sustainable.”

Smith’s comments came during a Business First roundtable discussion on workforce issues. She said the partnership has generally seen its membership continue to look for new employees during the Covid-19 pandemic, outside of industries such as tourism and restaurants.

She was joined on the panel by some examples of her point. Stephen Tucker, president and CEO of the Northland Workforce Training Center, presides over an initiative that aims to create hundreds of manufacturing and energy workers in Western New York each year. New York state has invested $44 million in creating the training center.

Bassam Deeb, president of Trocaire College, said his school has increasingly sought to add a workforce component to its traditional academic initiatives. Trocaire recently received a $674,162 grant from ESD to expand its Career Reboot program, which seeks to train diverse populations in tech and cybersecurity roles and employer needs.

And James Partsch, executive of TechBuffalo, leads a newly established organization that seeks to create thousands of new tech workers in Western New York over the next few years. TechBuffalo is supported in that goal with $2 million in funding from Empire State Development.

“We’ve had a lot of success with our entrepreneurial ecosystem,” he said. “We are seeing companies grow. Talent is the key to being able to scale those companies. It is the key to bringing in larger organizations to Western New York that may not have been thinking of us as a destination.”

This article originally appeared in Buffalo Business First.