What happens when your community attracts new industries with good jobs, but the companies find they cannot find employees with the skills they need?


We have as close to a full employment economy as we have seen. Yet, in many industries and in many parts of the country, we have employers who cannot find people to fill their jobs. Often these are a good jobs. What's the problem? We know it as "the skills gap." Employers discover that people who would like to get the jobs employers want to fill can't qualify for them. Why? Because they lack the occupational skills; a great many of those who are ready to get those skills, for example from a community college one-year certificate or two-year degree program, lack the basic skills to be successful or to be admitted as regular students taking credit-bearing courses. Sound familiar?

What solutions does your community, town or city offer?

Here's one from Buffalo, New York, offered by one of New York State's 51 Literacy Zones.

  • About 70 percent of the 600 people who tried to enroll in the Northland Workforce Training Center last year couldn't pass the TABE reading and math test, which measures whether people can read and write at the industry standard; the applicants have difficulty understanding technical instructions and blueprints, to use formulas to solve problems and to fill out complex forms.
  • "Across the Buffalo Niagara region, but especially in Buffalo and Niagara Falls with their high rates of poverty, thousands of people would love to have jobs in manufacturing and health care – good paying jobs with benefits and a career path. Many look to Northland (the Northland Workforce Training Center) as a way to a better life."
  • "At the same time, some 3,000 jobs in advanced manufacturing and energy need to be filled, according to the Buffalo Niagara Manufacturing Alliance. State labor officials estimate more than 3,500 jobs will be available over the next five years in health care support occupations alone."
  • Jeffrey M. Conrad, director of Workforce Development and Education at Catholic Charities of Buffalo, describes the problem this way: “ ' We’ve made substantial investments in Buffalo to bring in industry....Whether you’re in health care or manufacturing, both those industries require minimum standards.' But companies can’t find enough workers who meet those standards. 'So, all that money we’ve invested in economic development could go away tomorrow,' Conrad said."
  • "Those who don’t pass but show promise are allowed to enroll through a program the (Literacy Zone) center developed called the Academic Advancement Support Program. Students are offered tutoring, and they are picking up the reading and math skills as they progress through their classes."
  • Why can't applicants pass the TABE? “ 'It’s a million reasons,' said Diemert, the Literacy Zone coordinator. 'At its core is poverty.” 'It’s harder to go back to school if you’re poor.' Every day, Diemert and his staff at the Literacy Zone in BOCES' new Workforce Training Center in the Falls help students overcome barriers. Sometimes, it means connecting students with transportation and child care. Other times, it means helping them find food and housing."

The above description is largely based on this article from the Buffalo News, https://buffalonews.com/2019/01/12/at-training-centers-many-need-literacy-help-before-they-can-take-advantage-of-job-training/ The key to this solution is the Literacy Zone model which puts an adult basic skills organization at the center of the model and has it link to all the services that students and clients need to be successful.

David J. Rosen, Moderator

LINCS CoP Program Management group