Integrating New York’s REDCs and Workforce Development

Brian McMahonThe Partnership’s Shelby Schneider joined Brian McMahon, executive director of the New York State Economic Development Council (NYSEDC), for the Center for Urban Future and the New York Association of Training and Employment Professionals’s Integrating New York’s REDCs with Workforce Development forum on June 14, 2016. Below, Brian recaps his thoughts.

Recently, I participated in a forum on workforce development sponsored by the Center for an Urban Future and the New York Association of Training and Employment Professionals. The topic of the session was how to better align New York’s Regional Economic Development Councils (REDCs) with workforce development.

The issue could not be more important. Too often, many think economic development consists only of capital; grants or other financial incentives to build bricks and mortar structures. The economic development model that NYSEDC members practices has four critical components:

  • Tech-based economic development – Building innovation economies working with institutions and entrepreneurs
  • Community-based economic development – Revitalizing urban and neighborhood corridors
  • Financing projects and infrastructure – Capital
  • Workforce development – Investing in people to make sure businesses have skilled workers

NYSEDC Workforce QuoteMore often than not, when NYSEDC members deliver an economic development solution to a business, it is a workforce solution.

Because New York is a high cost state, it must be able to compete with a skilled workforce. That is why the state and its communities must develop better strategies and invest more in preparing workers with critical skills that employers can’t seem to find, now. There are important roles that REDCs can play to support this objective.

  1. REDCs should systematically survey employers in the region’s top five strategic sectors to determine what skills businesses will need and require of workers over the next five years. Without first knowing what skills are/will be in demand, it is not possible to supply workers with those skill requirements.
  1. REDCs should identify every training provider in the region – private, public, private-public partnerships, etc, and get their ideas for collaborating and meeting identified skill demands. NYS has plenty of workforce development organizations, but too often, they work in silos and compete with one another. They should be encouraged to collaborate to meet a critical need.
  1. Funding for workforce development is important and there isn’t enough of it. And, the funding that does exist comes from the federal government with many strings attached. More flexible funding is needed throughout the state. To address this, each REDC should create a flexible workforce development account to be used to support training programs that develop skilled workers for jobs that exist at the end of the training. To seed these flexible accounts, the state should take the five percent of WIOA dollars that are flexible (About $30 million) and distribute them equally to the REDC workforce development accounts.
  1. Furthermore, given the priority importance a skilled workforce is to New York’s competitive standing, the state should dedicate five percent of REDC annual appropriations to the REDC flexible workforce development accounts.

These strategies are consistent with the thrust of the REDCs: bottom-up economic development. Furthermore, these ideas would not require any additional programmatic dollars to be expended. Both the WIOA flexible formula dollars and the five percent of monies appropriated annually to the REDCs already exist. They simply would be re-purposed in a meaningful way to support skills development and job creation in the regions.