This article originally appeared in the January 8, 2016 Edition of the NYSEDC Weekly Newsletter
Employers in Saratoga County are facing the same challenge affecting businesses across the country: the availability of skilled workers. This challenge is especially pronounced for the county's advanced manufacturing, health and wellness, and tourism and hospitality industries, which account for over 30% of employment in the county and are projected to create over half of new Saratoga jobs added by 2024. To better understand and ultimately address workforce challenges, the Saratoga Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) and the Saratoga-Warren-Washington Counties Workforce Development Board (SWW WDB) developed a collaborative plan to align workforce development efforts in the county with the needs of these industries.
To assist in this effort, Camoin Associates conducted an in-depth analysis of economic and labor market data for Saratoga's three targeted industries and the skills and training required to work in these fields. To complement this analysis, Camoin also interviewed employers in each industry and related training and education providers in the region. Ultimately, several major workforce challenges were uncovered, broadly classified as the aging workforce, awareness of employment opportunities, and the availability of skilled workers needed to fill key positions.
Through this analysis, it was also evident that Saratoga and the Capital Region are home to a variety of resources that can help address these challenges, ranging from education and training providers to economic development organizations. Many of these organizations are already focusing their efforts on the workforce challenges facing employers. In recognition of this, the plan developed by SEDC and the SWW WDB focuses on increasing collaboration among these organizations and leveraging their resources to address common workforce challenges.
SEDC and the SWW WDB plan to further collaborate with these organizations to develop a business outreach program that leverages existing employer engagement programs. This business outreach partnership would cross-train economic and workforce development professionals so they are able to present the resources of multiple agencies when meeting with an employer, regardless of which specific organization they represent. The partnership would also facilitate the sharing of intelligence gathered from employer outreach to ensure that all partners have up-to-date information about the needs of employers.
While the project has been completed, the plan developed continues to evolve and adapt to the realities of implementation. Throughout the process, meaningful engagement with employers and other stakeholders was prioritized. While the data analyzed provided insight into workforce challenges, only the people working “on the ground” truly understand where the greatest needs lie and can offer insight into the strategies that could address them. Furthermore, it was important to recognize the limitations not only of SEDC and the SWW WDB but also of the stakeholders throughout the region. The feasibility of the strategies developed was always assessed to ensure the resulting plan would be realistic and implementable. Finally, to address the challenge of capacity, collaboration with complementary organizations was identified as a major pillar of the plan’s implementation. The resulting plan focuses on leveraging training programs and initiatives already in place rather than developing new, resource-intensive programs.