New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik held a workforce forum with local business leaders on Monday. Their key message is more funding is needed for worker training.
The 21st district Republican toured the Clinton County OneWorkSource Center where training and job placement skills are taught.
Following her visit to the resource and adult education classrooms, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik sat down for a roundtable discussion with members of the North Country Workforce Development Board.
Stefanik began by noting that she is assigned to the Education and Workforce Committee, supports funding allocated through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and the Career and Technical education bill that just passed out of the committee. “The Plattsburgh region is really at the cutting edge of how you work together with various organizations in terms of serving the community and serving the economic needs and giving people economic opportunity. Your investment in these programs and your commitment to these programs is critical for our region as we continue to create jobs.”
Participants told the Congresswoman it is crucial that the federal government invest in employment training efforts. Clinton Community College President Ray DiPasquale noted that the school is about to open a new manufacturing training facility. “We need to make sure that there’s funding both for the employees and those coming back to school. Now we’re beginning to see the funding beginning to dwindle and we’re sitting out there in a place where it’s very hard to move forward with programs with no funding.”
Funding workforce training is crucial to economic development, according to Development Corporation President Paul Grasso. “It’s not only the level of funding, and I believe if you look at 1978 today’s funding accounting for inflation’s about 65 percent of what the Department of Labor was awarded in 1978. So that’s pretty far behind where they need to be. We also think it needs to be a little bit less restrictive. I think block grants to local areas is a much more effective way of funding workforce allowing each individual area to determine what its specific needs are and focus more on outcomes.”
NY Association of Training and Employment Professionals Executive Director Melinda Mack noted that federal funding is the state’s resource for the workforce training system. “It becomes challenging when we start to see those cuts because places who are doing really well economically see those cuts even more drastically because of the way the funding formula is structured. One of the other issues that we’re seeing statewide we’re not actually putting the resources together to serve the folks who live in the communities. We do need to create some on ramps so that folks are able to access either the high school equivalency program, adult basic education or some creative programs across the state to speed up their entry into employment.”
Grasso argued that one crucial element – supportive services - has disappeared from workforce funding. “And I would argue that somebody’s paying for it anyway because if I can’t go to training and I’m on public assistance that money is coming to me for daycare. So you have someone who wants to work that is being penalized for wanting to work.”
CV-TEC Adult Education Coordinator Cathy Snow supported Grasso’s argument noting some students take as many as two years to complete programs. “They do have a lot of barriers. In the funding we try and provide as many supportive services as we can but there’s not enough money to provide those supportive services that really would get them on their feet.”
Following the meeting, Congresswoman Stefanik said that during the appropriations process she adds amendments to support programs in the district. Workforce training she says is the top concern of employers throughout the region. “I think what’s unique about our community is the employers are really partnered with organizations to identify what skills they need and make sure that we have a pipeline.”
Clinton Community College’s Advanced Manufacturing Institute will offer its first classes this fall.