Posted: November 13, 2019 in Business, Education, In the News, Workers
Members of the Assembly Minority Task Force on Learning For Work in the Town of Ballston listening to stakeholders on Tuesday, Nov. 12.

Assemblyman Kevin Byrne (R,C,Ref-Mahopac) joined Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh (R,C,I-Ballston) in her Assembly District, with the Assembly Minority Task Force On Learning For Work co-chairs Assemblymen Ken Blankenbush (R,C,I-Black River) and Mike Norris (R,I,C,Ref-Lockport), alongside other members of the Assembly Minority Conference, at a forum Tuesday evening in Saratoga County to discuss the best ways to transition students from high school into the workplace and ensure they possess the skills required to obtain a career in the trades or field of their choosing.

The Assembly Minority Task Force on Learning for Work hosted its fourth of six regional forums at the Ballston Town Hall. Specifically, the forum sought feedback from educational, trade and industrial leaders, students and the public in regard to the proposed Learning for Work Program (A.4255, Ra) and its role in helping to address the “middle-skills gap” in the state.

“New Yorkers need to know that there is more than one way to enter the workforce and have a successful career,” said Assemblyman Kevin Byrne. “Whether it’s through a traditional four-year degree, learning a skill to be successful in the trades or serving our nation in the military, there are job opportunities for our young people. We need to make sure we give them the tools and support they need so they are set up for success in a career they are proud of, not faced with disappointment and insurmountable amounts of student debt.”

“Our Conference’s ‘Learning for Work’ legislation would create an apprenticeship program aimed at furthering students’ workplace education through hands-on experience, helping to prepare them for a wide variety of technical careers,” said Assemblyman Blankenbush, task force co-chairman. “There are available jobs out there, and if we can successfully combine coursework with real-world training, we can pair up skilled workers with those vacant positions. Our state’s economic health, viability and competitiveness depend on a well-trained, skilled workforce.”

“Four-year degrees are a great tool for some individuals to achieve their career goals, but too many young people are told at an early age they must obtain one in order to succeed. That’s simply not the case,” said Assemblyman Norris, task force co-chairman. “As early as middle school, we must start encouraging more students to enroll in technical and trade-school programs, and that starts with proper messaging. Success should not be measured by how long someone goes to school; it should be measured by how well-suited an individual is for the program and career path they’re on.”

The feedback and first-hand information gathered during the task force forums will be used to better understand the strengths of, and areas in which to improve, current legislation to ensure all students are well-equipped to enter the 21st century workforce. At the conclusion of the forums, a report, including a summary of findings and targeted policy solutions, will be generated and brought to the Legislature. 

“Bridging the middle-skills gap isn’t going to happen overnight,” said Assemblywoman Walsh. “It is ingrained in today’s students that they need to graduate high school and continue on to a four-year college in order to be successful, and that is simply not the case. Vocational and trade schools are a viable option and can lead to a lucrative and successful career in a number of different occupations. With the correct tools and guidance, we can help the next generation make an informed decision about their future.” 

“It is critical that we seek to address the sizeable chasm between middle-skills work need and the trained individuals available to fill those jobs,” said Assemblyman Dan Stec (R,C,I-Queensbury). “As is the case with most things, addressing this problem from the ground up—from high school to trade school and eventually the job force—is the best way to guide young people toward high-demand, good-paying careers. I look forward to continuing this conversation in an attempt to design policies that seek to aid and improve the existing framework for partnerships between our schools and local businesses.”

“Today’s students have more choices for their career paths than they realize,” said Assemblyman Jake Ashby (R,C,I,Ref-Castleton). “The need for skilled laborers and tradesman is out there, but the information needs to be available. Connections need to be made between educators, businesses and the upcoming workforce. The need for a centralized program is key.”

The next regional forum is scheduled for Wednesday, November 13 at Nassau Community College in Garden City.