Skilled Workforce A Top Priority For Borrello

Building a skilled workforce won’t happen overnight, but it has become a main focus in Chautauqua County.

County Executive George Borrello said it is a priority of his administration to help close the skills gap in the county. Borrello said he is about a quarter of the way through his “100 Businesses in 100 Days” initiative, and has found the skills gap to be a problem for many of the businesses he has visited.

“There are not enough skilled workers,” Borrello said. “All the businesses have jobs openings. There are hundreds of jobs that need to be filled.”

Part of the problem Borrello wishes to address is the communication breakdown between people in need of jobs and the employers.

Borrello said he wants to create a professional recruitment tool that will help connect employers and potential employees.

But the fact remains that a skilled workforce is necessary for businesses to succeed, and Chautauqua County is lacking in that area, Borrello said. He said building that workforce will entail supporting Dream It Do It New York programming, partnering with local colleges and institutions and training those who have been displaced from their previous jobs to do something else. Dream It Do It is an initiative focused around educating the upcoming generation about advanced manufacturing jobs.

“We need to focus on providing a skilled workforce for the businesses that are already here,” Borrello said. “I want to create a better network and get as many people back to work as soon as possible.”

Borrello said programs like Dream It Do It are important because they get young people interested in skilled trades. Not everyone needs a four-year degree to have a successful career, which he noted many area manufacturing and skilled trade positions can offer.

Borrello said he has also reached out to the Chautauqua County Education Coalition regarding workforce development and closing the skills gap.

Justin Hanft, Chautauqua County Education Coalition executive director said the coalition exists to foster stronger relationships between organizations to help create solutions to problems like skill shortages in manufacturing. Hanft said, for example, Jamestown Community College has a variety of programs that will help address the gap, but candidates would need to enroll in those programs. He said the coalition can bring together employers and the college to create strategies to address the issue.

“In addition, we also work with other non profit organizations that provide programs to participate in the conversation and demonstrate when and where they could assist in the process,” Hanft said.

Hanft said the coalition has come along side Dream It Do It and the PTECH program for support. For example, the coalition has assisted with the annual STEM Wars event in the past. The coalition also focuses on developing kindergarten readiness programs and middle school to highschool pathways in Manufacturing and Healthcare. Hanft said the coalition uses the Stakeholder Engagement Process, which is sort of “playbook” to get everyone working together on the same page.

“So, it’s a macro-level, big picture, long-term approach to solving complex community problems, which often times is what workforce challenges are,” Hanft said. “The county has been very supportive of the work we are doing, and George (Borrello) has shared the information about the work we are doing with many businesses during his 100 business visits in an effort to get them connected so that we can be a resource for them.”

For more information on the Chautauqua County Education Coalition, visit www.educoalition.com.

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