Middle-skill jobs, which require education beyond high school but not a four-year degree, make up the largest part of America’s and New York’s labor markets. Yet, key industries in our region are unable to find enough sufficiently trained workers to fill these jobs.
The key is not to pray that external economic development dollars will one day make the desert bloom. Certainly, state, federal, and charitable funds will be sought when needed and beneficial but there are steps we can take to secure our future even if those dollars don’t materialize. While we do not know what the future will bring, we recognize a continuing trend toward automation and labor reduction. So let’s focus on doing what can be done nowhere else, by no one else. From Browncroft to PLEX, city government needs to recognize the Flour City for what it is—the heart of a region weighted with opportunity, ready for the harvest, and on the cusp of becoming a healthier Rochester.
Vision: Growing jobs from the grassroots
Rochester is at the center of a bountiful food-producing region. Yet, executives from our region’s food production companies have expressed to me that there are open jobs with few barriers to entry going unfilled. Dozens of jobs at LiDestri, Baldwin Richardson, and Palmers await a line or machine operator. These unfilled jobs keep pockets empty and delay growth.
So let’s dream bigger and step ahead of the curve. Let’s direct students into careers that create things. Food is my focus, so let’s start there. We can expand apprenticeship opportunities for kids coming out of East High and refugees at OACES, which both have strong programs in the food industry. The city can sponsor their development at food-centered not-for-profits. Early experiences in work culture and the food industry will open doors at cornerstone employers, such as Wegmans, and accelerate the development of our city’s burgeoning food scene.
Here are successful, middle-skill job training and economic development programs that we should use as models:
- Economic Development and Innovative Workforce Services, MCC, Brighton, NY. Good work is already underway as the EDIWS connects MCC students with jobs in the regional ag industry and technology sector.
Young Adult Internship Program (YAIP), New York, NY. Reengaging New York City’s Disconnected Youth Through Work offers subsidized internships and job readiness workshops as well as individual counseling and support through assessments and case management.
Career Pathways, New York City, NY. Under Mayor de Blasio, the Office of Workforce Development helps link people with jobs that already exist in the NYC economy.
Partner 4 Work, Pittsburgh, PA. Partner 4 Work annually places 1,700 adults and 2,000 young adults in jobs. Has proven to be a driving force in the rebuilding of the Steel City.