Assemblymen Ken Blankenbush (R,C,I-Black River), Mike Norris (R,I,C,Ref-Lockport), Mark Johns (R,C,I,Ref-Webster) and Peter Lawrence (R,C,I-Greece), alongside other members of the Assembly Minority Conference, hosted a forum Thursday evening in Rochester to discuss the best ways to transition students from high school into the workplace and ensure they possess the skills required to obtain a career in the trade or field of their choosing.
Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) attended the forum.
The Assembly Minority Task Force on Learning for Work hosted the last of six regional forums at Monroe Community College. Specifically, the forum sought feedback from educational, trade and industrial leaders, students and the public in regard to the proposed Learning for Work Program (A.4255, Ra) and its role in helping to address the “middle-skills gap” in the state.
“Our Conference’s ‘Learning for Work’ legislation would create an apprenticeship program aimed at furthering students’ workplace education through hands-on experience, helping to prepare them for a wide variety of technical careers,” said Assemblyman Blankenbush, task force co-chairman. “There are available jobs out there, and if we can successfully combine coursework with real-world training, we can pair up skilled workers with those vacant positions. Our state’s economic health, viability and competitiveness depend on a well-trained, skilled workforce.”
“Four-year degrees are a great tool for some individuals to achieve their career goals, but too many young people are told at an early age they must obtain one in order to succeed. That’s simply not the case,” said Assemblyman Norris, task force co-chairman. “As early as middle school, we must start encouraging more students to enroll in technical and trade-school programs, and that starts with proper messaging. Success should not be measured by how long someone goes to school; it should be measured by how well-suited an individual is for the program and career path they’re on.”
“There is no single path to success in life. Endless opportunities exist for people of all ages, backgrounds and skill sets; the trick is to match the person to the career that best suits them,” said Assemblyman Johns. “Our task force is designed to help figure out systemic solutions to workforce shortages in skilled-trade jobs that we desperately need filled. I am proud to work alongside labor and education experts to help get those jobs stocked quickly and with the right people.”
“Not every student has the desire to pursue a four-year degree,” said Assemblyman Lawrence. “We are seeing a resurgence in manufacturing and the need for skilled labor is in high demand. Business leaders are telling me that they cannot fill positions due to the lack of skilled workers. It is crucial that we show students that they can be successful and thrive in their pursuit of these well-paid and rewarding jobs. Our state and the demands of our workforce are looking to these students to be the next leaders in manufacturing and building trades. I am proud to be a part of this important conversation and believe the outcome of these forums will only make New York a better place to live and work.”
The feedback and firsthand information gathered during the task force forums will be used to better understand the strengths of, and areas in which to improve, current legislation to ensure all students are well equipped to enter the 21st century workforce. At the conclusion of the forums, a report, including a summary of findings and targeted policy solutions, will be generated and brought to the Legislature.
“A labor force works best when its workers efficiently fill positions in high demand. Often, this means laborers performing a diverse array of work, with a diverse array of skills,” Assemblyman Hawley said. “This task force aims to help match demand to positions and ensure the job force is operating at peak effectiveness. There are so many incredible, high-paying jobs that are going unfilled for no other reason than a lack of awareness and education. We seek to remedy that though this effort.”
“We must shrink the skills gap and reduce the massive amount of student loan debt that too many of our young men and women are acquiring,” said Assemblywoman Marjorie Byrnes (R,C-Caledonia). “The cost of college tuition continues to rise and student loan debt is one of the highest consumer debt categories in the nation. We need to start taking a more proactive approach when speaking to students about options for their future.”
“I am confident that through these forums, we will learn more about the needs of our businesses and how to better bridge the middle-skills gap,” said Assemblyman Brian Manktelow (R,C,I,Ref-Lyons). “Opportunities are out there. We just need to make the information available to students and businesses alike and help to bring them together. New York state’s economic well-being depends on it.”