The New York Senate today passed a significant package of bills aimed at boosting the state economy by training job seekers and existing employees for the employment opportunities that are in demand. The measures will eliminate the skills gap through education investments and advance networks between workers and job creators.
They are among the products of an extensive examination of employment issues in New York conducted by the Senate’s Task Force on Workforce Development, chaired by Senators Chris Jacobs (60th District), Robert Ortt (R-C-I, North Tonawanda), and George Amedore (R-C-I, Rotterdam).
Senator Jacobs said, “Workforce development is one of the most significant and complicated issues facing communities all across New York State. If we are going to succeed in the extremely competitive environment of attracting private sector investment and growing our economy, than we must make the kinds of strategic investments and develop the innovative programs that are included in the legislation we are advancing today.”
Senator Ortt said, “The proposed legislation will help educate students and train workers as we give them invaluable tools in a changing economy. These measures will not only put many individuals back to work and further their skill sets to fall in line with a 21st century workforce, but they will pave the way for a stronger, more robust New York.”
Senator Amedore said, “This legislative package provides additional resources to help bridge the gap between potential employees and employers who are in need of skilled workers. These measures, coupled with a strong investment in workforce development initiatives in this year’s budget, will help us build a first-rate workforce that will lead to a healthier, more vibrant economy throughout New York.”
The bills passed today include:
Encouraging Statewide Participation in Apprenticeships: Bill S2124A, sponsored by Senator Jacobs, would direct the Commissioner of Education to develop guidelines for use by high school guidance counselors in facilitating student awareness and interest in apprenticeship, pre-apprenticeship, and career and technical education opportunities. This would particularly apply to the hardworking men and women looking to gain footing in the building, construction, manufacturing, and maritime trades where positions all across the state are often left unfulfilled.
Giving Job Opportunities to Those Who Served our Country: Bill S938, by Senator Thomas Croci (R, Sayville), would establish the Veteran Career Assistance Program in collaboration with the Division of Veterans Affairs, as well as SUNY and CUNY. Similar to the assistance currently provided to SUNY and CUNY students, this program would assist veterans using their military experiences and skills to build a civilian resume and gain access to employment placement services.
Making Information about State Work Programs More Accessible: Bill S3789, sponsored by Senator Elaine Phillips (R-C, Manhasset), would require the New York State Department of Labor (DOL) to publish an annual catalogue listing multiple state and federal funding programs and tax credits for workforce development and preparation, adult education, and skills training. New York spends billions of dollars each year on workforce preparation and adult education, but information on the programs is scarce and difficult to read. This bill would require DOL to put the many different programs in one readily available spot.
Establishing the “Retrain and Employ Unemployed Persons Program”: Bill S2232, sponsored by Senator Kenneth LaValle (R-C-I, Port Jefferson), directs SUNY and CUNY community colleges to work with local businesses and industry to develop work force training programs that target the unemployed and provide the skills necessary for individuals to obtain jobs in their communities. This bill also provides funding for the initial creation of this program by providing $500,000 grants to start and additional incentive funding to those community colleges that successfully place trained individuals in jobs.
Investing in our Children’s Immediate Future: Bill S6087, sponsored by Senator Carl L. Marcellino (R, Syosset), would invest $35 million to expand New York State’s Pathways in Technology Schools (P-TECHs) and Early College High Schools to meet student demand and enhance educational performance. These unique programs prepare students for college-level coursework that promotes future academic performance and enables students to get their high school diplomas while also earning free associate degrees for high-skilled jobs or taking other college-credit bearing courses. Currently, P-TECHs and Early College High Schools are not codified in state law, but this bill would make them permanent and provide a reliable funding stream that eliminates uncertainty and gives reliability to participating students.
Attracting Talented Educators who Prepare the Next Generation: Bill S1469, sponsored by Senator Patty Ritchie (R-C, Heuvelton), helps increase access to career and tech programs at BOCES. The bill would require the state Department of Education to work with districts to remove some of the stigma associated with taking classes through BOCES; have districts encourage students to take advantage of the Career and Technical Education (CTE) services that BOCES offers; and increase the current salary cap for BOCES instructors from $30,000 to $50,000 to attract and retain qualified and skilled teachers.
Recognizing Student Effort in the Workforce: Bill S2104, sponsored by Senator Simcha Felder (D, 17th District), would give high school students the opportunity to earn academic credit towards graduation for outside work experience. The legislation recognizes the value of practical experiences high school students may get from jobs, and helps encourage youth for the workforce.
Giving All Veterans the Opportunity to Obtain a Diploma: Bill S397B, sponsored by Senator Ortt, would allow any veteran to be awarded a high school diploma based on their knowledge and experience in service to this country. Current law allows veterans of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War to receive their high school diplomas upon satisfactory discharge from military service. This measure would extend that opportunity to veterans who have served in the conflicts since Vietnam, giving them another tool to help find meaningful employment and successful careers.
The bills have been sent to the Assembly, with the exception of S3789, which will be sent to the Governor.
Record Workforce Development Funding in the 2017-18 State Budget:
In addition to the bills passed today, the New York Senate fought for a record funding level of $260 million in this year’s enacted budget for dozens of job training and workforce development initiatives, nearly all of which were advocated for by the Senate’s Task Force on Workforce Development. Highlights include:
· Tax Credits for Employers, including $40 million for a five-year extension of the New York Youth Jobs Program; $10 million for the Empire State Apprenticeship Tax Credit Program; $5 million for the Employee Training Incentive Program, which also expands the program to include incumbent worker training and training for employees of life science companies;
· More than $160 million for education initiatives, including helping individuals obtain high school diplomas, the Consortium for Workforce Education; Teachers of Tomorrow; Teacher Resource and Computer Training Centers; the Computer Science Master Teacher Program; and professional development resources;
· Nearly $4 million for Workforce Development Institute (WDI) – a highly successful not-for-profit that works with businesses and the AFL-CIO to provide focused training of workers and for workforce transition support to help stop the outsourcing of jobs to other states – and $3 million for the WDI Manufacturing Initiative.
· Support for CUNY workforce development, including $2 million for the CUNY Apprentice program; and $2 million for the Job Linkage program to provide certificate programs and increase job placement rates;
· Support for SUNY workforce development, including $3 million for the SUNY Apprentice Program, $3 million for Job Linkage, and a $1.5 million increase secured by the Senate for Small Business Development Centers (total: $3.5 million);
· Significant funding for the Building Trades Pre-Apprenticeship Program; the Logger Job Training Program; long-term care training; the Displaced Homemaker Program; youth-related initiatives; Beginning Farmers; and programs for unemployed veterans.