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Their Jobs, Our Future

by Thom Kleiner

Possibly the greatest challenge facing Governor-elect Cuomo — and a continuing challenge for President Obama and the next Congress — is training the nation’s workforce to fill jobs in emerging growth industries.

Recent statistics from the NY State Department of Labor, where I am the Commissioner’s Hudson Valley representative, reveal that certain sectors of the economy, such as healthcare services, green jobs and biotechnology, are poised to experience faster growth than more traditional engines of job growth, such as construction and manufacturing. Young people now entering the job market, however, are frequently deficient in the skills necessary to compete in those emerging growth sectors.

Those skills, commonly referred to as STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), have traditionally been shunned by American’s students compared to the interest shown in them by their counterparts around the world. The Department of Labor is trying to narrow that gap.

The department has developed programs designed to encourage young people to consider STEM careers, and, at the very least, enhance their skills in those disciplines.

Through Career Zone and the STEM portal on that site, students are able to create avatars for themselves & explore careers in STEM-related occupations. Careers in non-STEM areas are also accessible. The programs are intended to expose students to potential careers as early as sixth grade.

Once students are out of school, it falls to the community colleges and private educational institutions to provide the course curriculum and training necessary to ensure that those entering the job market have the requisite skills to compete for the new jobs.

While some institutions have been particularly effective in offering cutting-edge courses, the Department of Labor and other workforce partners must work even more closely with those institutions to share data on occupational projections which will
allow them to establish courses and training programs that better reflect the changing job market.

Our success in preparing young people for future jobs will determine the strength of our economy for years to come. The sooner we act to enhance their skills, the more likely our nation will remain competitive in the global environment.

Thom Kleiner is the representative for the Commissioner of the NY State Department of Labor in the Hudson Valley.  His column is published monthly in the Nyack Villager.

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