Measuring Middle-Skills Occupational Gaps within the Western New York Region

INTRODUCTION The WNY STEM Hub (WNY STEM) is an incorporated nonprofit of nearly 600 individuals representing over 250 organizations. We facilitate partnerships with business, education and community collaborators to serve learners of all ages in accessing STEM learning and careers. This is achieved by providing services, events, experiences and resources through collaboration of an extensive cross-sector network. WNY STEM is affiliated with a statewide network of STEM Hubs – the SUNY Empire State STEM Learning Network. The 5 counties served by WNY STEM are: Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie and Niagara. WNY STEM is an initiative of the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County that serves as fiduciary sponsor for the Hub. The UB Center for Integrated Global Health Sciences at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus serves as the Steward for WNY STEM. During the summer of 2015, the Workforce Development Action Team of WNY STEM convened focus groups to explore how WNY STEM might collaborate with regional partners to support STEM workforce needs that can help sustain the economic initiatives occurring in the region. Among the outcomes of the focus group discussions was the need for current, actionable data on STEM workforce skills gaps in the region that might guide future action. Todd Oldham, Vice President of Economic and Workforce Development at Monroe Community College was invited to present a successful data report on middle-skills gaps in the Finger Lakes Region in anticipation that such a report might begin the process of quantifying and identifying the gaps that currently exist. Three years ago, Monroe Community College (MCC) in partnership with SUNY (State University of New York) was awarded a $14.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to design, implement, and deliver a strategic approach to job training and education for high-need industries such as nanotechnology and advanced manufacturing. The consortium of 30 community colleges known as the SUNY TEAM (Training and Education in Advanced Manufacturing) Project designed and delivered comprehensive training and education in the advanced manufacturing industry sector. WNY STEM is a valued SUNY TEAM partner and was subsequently included in the SUNY TEAM’s project work. This data mapping project was funded by SUNY TEAM because of the demand for skilled and credentialed workers as evidenced by the local job opportunities, and a noted skills gap in existing training programs and current infrastructure. This project attempts to quantify and estimate the likely middle-skills gap across the advanced manufacturing workforce cluster within the Western New York Economy so regional training and education providers might better address the gaps and serve industry. In addition to the leadership role of Monroe Community College in the data management process, WNY STEM acknowledges that this report is the collective input of an advisory panel comprised of leaders in workforce development and educational institutions across all five counties of the region that supported triangulation of the data included in the report. WNY STEM is committed to the premise that learners engaged in STEM learning and career pathway development will have the skills and dispositions to succeed in college and career and will contribute to an economically and intellectually vibrant region. It is our hope that this report will be a valuable tool in continuing to move our mission forward and support our region’s manufacturing sector. Sincerely,

Michelle Kavanaugh, Ed.D. President, WNY STEM Hub

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