Reed, O'Mara Agree on Workforce Development Agenda

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Source: The Evening Tribune

The unemployed and companies looking for skilled workers in the Southern Tier have the attention of state and federal lawmakers.

At the state level, Sen. Tom O'Mara, R-Big Flats, is working with the New York Labor Department to implement growth strategies directed specifically at the Southern Tier.

O'Mara was recently named to the Senate's Workforce Development Taskforce. O’Mara said the new task force will examine the state’s existing job training programs and develop new strategies to strengthen worker readiness.

According to the senator, working examples of public and private partnerships that create and fill jobs are out there, but the state needs to ramp up its efforts to connect employers with talent.

O'Mara pointed to the new CCC welding center in Elmira as a good model for how local colleges can work with businesses and industry.

“It’s a perfect example, I believe, of a type of a locally based workforce development model and investment that the Senate will seek to encourage, enhance and expand across the board,” he said.

“It’s a common sense challenge in some respects. We need jobs to employ our workers, but that goes hand in hand with taking steps to ensure that we have the workers to attract the jobs and industries. We hear plenty of discussion about the need for job-creating tax cuts and regulatory reforms, yet maybe not enough about the importance of job retraining and other opportunities to develop specific skills,” O'Mara explained.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 5 million job openings nationwide. Despite a decrease in the unemployment rate over the last few years, many jobs will likely continue to go unfilled due to an ongoing skills gap and an aging workforce.

Congressman Tom Reed, R-Corning, also recognizes the legitimacy of a skills gap in the Southern Tier.

"This is not something that is unique just to our backyard, this is something I hear from manufacturers across the country," he said. "Manufacturing today is not like the manufacturing of the twentieth century."

Reed believes that the gap is not an insurmountable one.

"I'm a firm believer in the STEM education program. I'm also a firm believer in bringing together those public-private partnerships that are represented by our manufacturers connecting with our school districts to make sure we have the workforce development programs to meet their needs," Reed said.

"It's about making sure that the job creators and providers are paired with the necessary resources to reach the kids who want to go into these programs," he added.

For Reed, a jobs initiative begins with existing resources.

"We need to promote the career opportunities that exist in our backyard. You look at vocational skills where we have welders who have job opportunities starting off at $60,000 per year at facilities like Newport in Chemung County. Those are good solid careers, and something we should champion and promote," he said.

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