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The Assembly Minority Conference

Assembly Minority Conference Issues Task Force Report To Address ‘Middle-Skills Gap’ In NYS

In advance of the Joint Legislative Budget Hearing on Workforce Development scheduled for later today, the Assembly Minority Task Force on Learning for Work released its final report after collecting feedback and data from stakeholders across New York. The report addresses the Conference’s proposed Learning for Work Program (A.8426, Walczyk) and its role in mitigating the critical “middle-skills gap” hampering the labor force. The report can be viewed here.

The Legislative Budget Hearings, focusing on several program areas within the Executive Budget Proposal, are intended to provide the appropriate legislative committees with public input. The task force report, developed after receiving extensive input from members of the public as well as educational, trade and industrial leaders, should serve as an invaluable resource to the Legislature and Gov. Hochul when negotiating the final budget.

The massive disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to be closed, businesses to shutter and residents to lose their jobs. Almost overnight, parents and employers across the state realized how critically their lives and livelihoods revolved around the education system and a sound, stable workforce.

“Our report takes a comprehensive look at the ways we can better provide students with the training and education needed to thrive in the modern labor force,” said Task Force Co-Chairman Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush (R,C,I-Black River). “Four-year degree programs are an important part of higher education, but they do not suit the needs of everyone. Under our plan, students would be encouraged to and supported in pursuing alternative career paths. This benefits both the students and the many organizations facing a professional-skill labor shortage.”

“After having heard from education, business and labor stakeholders, students and parents, it’s clear that we need significant changes in the way that young people are prepared and encouraged to strongly consider professional skills for our evolving workforce,” said Task Force Co-Chairman Assemblyman Mike Norris (R,I,C-Lockport). “From middle school through high school, existing education criteria and training platforms need to be reevaluated and expanded to address the skills-gap facing New York state. We have proposed numerous solutions that would address these shortcomings and provide students with the tools they need to thrive and look forward to sharing our findings with the Governor, Legislature and public so we can continue this important discussion.”

Among the solutions and recommendations detailed in the report on how to best educate and prepare a workforce for the modern economy include, but are not limited to: 

  • Passing legislation enacting the “Learning for Work Program,” which is designed to train high-school aged New Yorkers for local jobs (A.8426, Walczyk);
  • Rebranding BOCES as Career Prep Centers and providing funding for marketing and signage replacement (A.8320, Barclay);
  • Increasing the aidable salaries of CTE teachers, supervisors and other employees of a BOCES program that is an approved state expense for State School Aid;
  • Enacting the Community College Merit and Mobility Scholarship program to incentivize attendance at state community colleges;and
  • Providing additional transportation options for students interested in BOCES, including expanding programs within a student’s own school to ensure greater access to work-based learning programs.

“There are a number of different paths to success in today’s workplace. As legislators, we must encourage and enable young men and women to explore their passions and interests and find a field that suits their abilities, in a setting that sets them up for success,” said Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay (R,C,I-Pulaski). “I am proud of the task force’s efforts and I appreciate the feedback from all the individuals who met with us at the forums. I truly believe this endeavor will help students carve their own paths of achievement.”

The report can be viewed here.