ESD Bolsters Future Workforce With $150M Grant Effort

Originally published in Innovate LI

A newly formed Empire State Development program will funnel $150 million into the education, training and credentialing of an in-demand statewide workforce.

Albany’s main economic-development engine has opened the new Office of Strategic Workforce Development, which immediately brings two innovative competitive-application programs to bear: the $115 million Pay for Performance Grant Program and the $35 million Workforce Development Capital Grant Program, both designed to support employer-driven, high-skilled workforce-training programs.

The Pay for Performance Grant Program answers the “operational resource needs” of training programs that offer industry-recognized credentials and certifications with “flexible operating grants” and “capacity-building awards,” bestowed upon workforce trainers for qualified job placements.

The Workforce Development Capital Grant Program supports the capital needs of workforce-training providers – extra credit for cleantech, biotech, advanced manufacturing and other high-demand sectors – looking to enhance or expand their offerings.

The capacity-building awards, ranging from $1,500 to $4,000, will be awarded per trainee placed in a qualifying position. The operating grants will run from $50,000 to $1 million each.

Eligible applicants include community-based organizations, not-for-profits, chambers of commerce, certain government organizations (workforce-development boards, for instance), educational institutions (including colleges and technical institutions) and for-profit training providers, among others.

Consolidated funding applications are being accepted now and will be accepted an on ongoing basis, with the first tranche of bimonthly awards expected to be announced in December – not a moment too soon, according to Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Hope Knight.

“For New York State to grow and thrive in the 21st Century, we need to invest in the programs that provide and create opportunities for more New Yorkers to learn the skills that employers need,” Knight said Monday. “These grants will help to create a ‘future-ready’ workforce.”

In addition to managing the competitive grant programs, the OSWD will collaborate with workforce-training providers around the state to promote industry-driven training and direct job placements. That effort will be bolstered by the state’s 10 Regional Economic Development Councils, which will engage local stakeholders to identify specific training needs.

State Senator Anna Kaplan (D-Carle Place), who chairs the New York State Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Economic Development and Small Business, called the OSWD and its comprehensive mission a “well-coordinated approach to workforce development.”

“The success of our economic recovery depends on our ability to meet the needs of employers with a local workforce that’s prepared for the jobs of today and tomorrow,” Kaplan said in a statement. “These grants are a game-changer that will finally build up the workforce-development infrastructure we need to help New Yorkers and grow our economy.”