Governor Cuomo Announces Buffalo Billion Plan to Train 17,000 Employees

May 2, 2013 Updated May 2, 2013 at 6:07 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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May 2, 2013 Updated May 2, 2013 at 6:07 PM EDT

Buffalo, NY (WKBW) - We now know where some of the billion dollars that Governor Cuomo promised to Buffalo will be spent.

Some money is being planned to go towards a new Workforce Training Center.

The local manufacturing industry says there are not enough trained workers in Western New York.

With employees retiring faster than young workers coming in, industry insiders say there will be 17-thousand vacancies by 2020.

It is hoped the training center will help fill some of those jobs.

"It's that private industry that is craving folks with these skills," says Howard Zemsky with the WNY Regional Economic Development Council, which is proposing the training center.

"We've also talked about jobs that are looking for people, people that are looking for jobs. That sounds to me like low hanging fruit. That sounds to me like a way of boosting the economy in Western New York."

It is still too early to know how much of the Buffalo Billion will go into this workforce training center. Officials anticipate that number will be in the eight figures.

A pilot program is expected to be up and running by the summer.

The training center is expected to officially open in 2014.

According to a news release from Governor Andrew Cuomo's office:

“It is critically important for the future of Buffalo’s economy that we align training in the region with the needs of industry,” said Cuomo. “We want to be ahead of the curve. The creation of this workforce development center, located in the City of Buffalo, is a huge opportunity to implement a creative solution to the workforce skills gap and meet current and future market demand with an exceptional workforce.”

Manufacturing is now the third largest industry sector in the region, employing more than 50,000 people and generating $6.3 billion in gross regional product (GRP).

Industry estimates indicate that between now and 2020, due to retirements and growth, there will be nearly 17,000 job vacancies in Buffalo/Niagara’s manufacturing sector. However, the region’s workforce does not currently have the employment skills to meet these demands.

At the Governor’s direction, key local stakeholders, including Empire State Development, Buffalo Niagara Manufacturing Alliance, Greater Niagara Manufacturers Association, Buffalo Niagara Partnership, the State University of New York (SUNY), New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL), Erie County and the City of Buffalo, have joined together with WNYREDC to correct this issue and provide a quantifiable process for improving and strengthening the region’s workforce.

The Council has formed a committee to explore the curriculum, operational model and potential sites for what will be a state-of-the-art Regional Workforce Advancement Center in the City of Buffalo. It will be dedicated to training the region’s workforce to not only meet the demands of the rapidly changing manufacturing industry, but also serve as a magnet for manufacturers to relocate to Buffalo/Niagara.

Economists in the U.S. now largely agree that productivity and economic growth are dependent on the quality of human capital, the penetration of technology, the degree to which an economy fosters innovation and an economy’s ability to translate basic research and development into commercial enterprises. Today’s announcement demonstrates that Governor Cuomo is leading the effort to ensure that the Greater Buffalo Niagara region embraces these changes and is poised for continued economic growth and opportunity.

In addition, to meet the current needs until the Center is opened, the council is working with the NYSDOL and plans to immediately launch a pilot program that will match the skills needed with jobs available in the region. The pilot will help the Council understand the weaknesses in the end-to-end process from training/education to employment and will ultimately identify a diverse set of applicants, provide them the skills and qualifications they need and match them to the job categories industry demands. Candidates will be screened by the NYSDOL and given interviews or matched through additional training.

It is through efforts such as these that the WNYREDC, through the Buffalo Billion initiative, is taking several steps to support advanced manufacturing in the region and develop the region as a national hub of advanced manufacturing innovation. The Council will also soon be taking steps to accelerate the industry’s growth through innovation by increasing access to applied research and scaled testing facilities for new product/process development.

President of the University at Buffalo and Regional Council Co-chair Satish K. Tripathi said, “With this initiative, companies throughout the world will recognize Buffalo as a leader in providing the foundation for future career and industry development and possessing the human capital needed to accelerate innovation,” “The Regional Workforce Advancement Center will provide cutting edge training in advanced manufacturing, ensuring our region has exceptionally well-qualified employees. The Center, in partnership with SUNY, is committed to designing promising career pathways in advanced manufacturing.”

Managing Partner at Larkin Development Group and Regional Council Co-chair Howard A. Zemsky said, “There is a national need for the type of hands-on training that will take place at the Regional Workforce Advancement Center. This facility will be a magnet for current and future employers—we’re going to match skills with jobs to grow employment in Buffalo. This initiative is vital to our economic future.”

Buffalo Niagara Manufacturing Alliance President and WNYREDC Workforce Implementation Group Co-Chair Chris Sansone said, “As manufacturing evolves in Western New York, we are facing a growing need to find properly trained and skilled employees for current and future jobs. The 17,000 identified job vacancies in the region’s manufacturing sector between now and 2020 is a staggering statistic, but also a tremendous opportunity. I am pleased that the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council recognizes there is a skills gap in the region and is taking action to reverse this trend to ensure we have the capacity to train the best skilled workers and allow the industry to prosper here in Western New York.”

“Governor Cuomo has made it a top priority to ensure that public-private partnerships will lead the way, bringing government, the business community and the educational community together, to ensure jobseekers are given the skills they need to meet employers’ needs,” said State Labor Commissioner Peter M. Rivera. “I am proud that DOL is working to be a ‘skills broker,’ paving the way to spur thousands of jobs and increased investment and economic activities for years to come.”

Erie County Community College President Jack Quinn said, “Erie Community College President Jack Quinn said, “Governor Cuomo in his 2013 State of the State address was adamant that generic job training programs do not fit in today’s economy. We must capitalize on the opportunity of unfilled jobs by working with employers to identify the job, define the skill and provide the education for it. Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, ECC will work with the Regional Workforce Advancement Center and regional businesses to design curriculum and training that fulfils the skills gaps and ensures our students are placed in good jobs.”

City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said, “I am thrilled that the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council, under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, recognizes the impact that a Regional Workforce Advancement Center will have on our workforce in Buffalo. A lot of discussion and energy went into making sure that this proposed workforce development center is able to reach the diversity of the city’s population.”

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said, “This state initiative, undertaken with the full collaboration of Erie County, Erie Community College and other workforce training partners who serve our region, will go a long way in creating a 21st century workforce that will allow Buffalo and Western New York to compete in the worldwide marketplace. This is a credit to Governor Cuomo’s vision for and support of our region and the hard work of the Regional Economic Development Council. I look forward to the rapid realization of this vision for our region.”

Western New York Area Labor Federation President Richard Lipsitz, Jr. said, “Western New York Area Labor Federation President Richard Lipsitz, Jr. said, “The Labor community looks forward to the opportunity to match our workforce with the jobs in demand. This center should help business to grow and, in so doing, create high-road jobs with good wages and benefits.”