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People power: Gov’t, industry investing in workers of the future

Our future is at stake.

Today’s economy is changing at such a rapid pace in New York City, across the U.S. and around the world that we are in danger of being left behind — unless we can find a way to keep up.

As a result, schools, charities, governments and businesses are scrambling to ensure economic stability and prosperity through the concept of “workforce development” — focusing on people as the primary drivers of economic growth by developing a human resources-centered strategy to remain competitive in the modern global marketplace.

The idea is that better-prepared and well-trained workers will help businesses achieve greater success, adding to the well-being of their communities and the workers themselves.

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The stakes couldn’t be higher, said Gabrielle Fialkoff, a senior adviser to Mayor de Blasio and director of the city’s Office of Strategic Partnerships.

“Workforce development is one of the surest single ways to protect people from falling into poverty and help them move out of poverty,” Fialkoff said.

“It’s more important than ever to make sure e’re offering the skills that employers want and need,” she added.

On a national level the stats are sobering. A 10-year U.S. employment projection the Bureau of Labor Statistics published on Oct. 26 shows a shrinking number of jobs for workers with only high school diplomas, and evidence of growing economic inequality.

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It also predicts an explosion of service jobs, as well as job growth and increasing wages for a handful of industries including health care, social services and technology.

Experts say organizations across the city are spending nearly $700 million each year to prepare New Yorkers for participation in the future workforce.

The city’s Summer Youth Employment Program, operated by the Department of Youth and Community Development, is the largest summer jobs program in the country.

Roughly 60,000 kids and young adults ages 14 to 24 land jobs through the program each year, with many of those jobs paving the way to permanent positions.

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Likewise, the city’s Ladders for Leaders program found summer internships for more than 1,600 students, with a record 600 employers.

City Education Department officials also operate a number of workforce development programs in the public schools and beyond.

And JPMorgan Chase is spending $6 million on programs to better prepare South Bronx high school grads for jobs in health care, information technology and transportation logistics and distribution.

Stacy Woodruff, Director of Field Building Hub at Workforce Professionals Training Institute.

(Byron Smith)

City University of New York Chancellor James Milliken said expanding workforce development programs is an essential part of CUNY’s strategic framework.

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“Students need not only an excellent education, new capabilities and college diplomas to launch great careers, they need valuable workplace experience and networks to get started,” Milliken said.

A complex mix of actors is working to improve workplace development programs across the city. Stacy Woodruff, director of the Field Building Hub at Workforce Professionals Training Institute, says coordinating their efforts is a key challenge.

“There is a lot of money being put into workforce development, but it’s not always being spent in the most effective ways,” Woodruff said.

“Increasingly, young adults are being locked out of the labor market if they don’t have high school diplomas or skills,” she added.

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“Not everybody goes from high school to college to a career, so making sure there are ways to connect those people to the workforce is of great importance.”

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