Buffalo Billion to help prepare local workforce

Governor Cuomo's Buffalo Billion is getting to work to help keep one of Western New York's largest industries going strong. YNN's Kaitlyn Lionti tells us about the initiative to prepare the workforce for jobs in advanced manufacturing, which is facing a critical shortage of employees.

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BUFFALO, N.Y. -- its estimated there will be nearly 17,000 job openings in the local advanced manufacturing sector between now and 2020.  But as retirements and growth create these vacancies, industry leaders say the region's workforce doesn't have the skills to fill them.

"A manufacturing job posting 20 years ago might have yielded 10 qualified candidates. Today, we're lucky to get one candidate," said Chris Sansone, president of the Buffalo Niagara Manufacturing Alliance.

So the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council has teamed up with multiple partners to change that, through the Buffalo Billion workforce development initiative.  They're creating a state-of-the-art Regional Workforce Advancement Center in Buffalo.  Sansone said the framework is being development by manufacturers, local government and educational institutions.

"All working together to align the training needs of manufacturers with our educational partners in helping to close the skills gap for current and future market demand," said Sansone.

And the President of Erie County Community College, which trains students in advanced manufacturing, said pursuing this field is definitely worth their while.  "Our students are stepping out into the workforce, the day after graduation, many while they're still in school at $22.50 an hour, $24.50 an hour plus medical benefits and probably a 401k and they become productive citizens right here in Western New York," said Jack Quinn, president of ECC.

While plans for the Center move forward, the council is also working with the State Department of Labor to start a pilot program immediately.  Council co-chair Howard Zemsky said they're looking at sites for the Center, and hope to have it up and running in 2014.  He said since these issues aren't isolated to Western New York, the solutions are key for the future.

"The community that can solve these issues are not only going to be able to create an environment where the local manufacturers can grow, but they're going to be more successful in recruiting manufacturers to the region," said Zemsky.

Date Published: Thursday, May 2nd, 2013