Workforce Development has become a major focus for the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation Local Economic Develop-ment Committee. The group has joined the Chautauqua County STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) Education Coalition to push for improvement in workforce quality in the county to assist in investment and job creation.
This coalition is composed of employers, county agencies, education and training institutions, and foundations. It is an outgrowth of the "Dream It Do It" initiative launched by the Chau-tauqua County Chamber of Commerce and Manufactur-ers Association of the Southern Tier. Funded by a grant from the Cummins Foundation, the goal of the STEM Coalition is to bring together resources to create a sharp focus on education targeted at high-tech careers in manufacturing, healthcare, and more.
According to Bill Daly, Administrative Director and CEO of the Chautauqua County Industrial Develop-ment Agency, manufacturing makes up 19 percent of the employees in Chautauqua County. This is nearly twice the statewide number of 10.9 percent. The Buffalo-Niagara region (the eight counties of WNY, including Chautauqua County) has added 1,700 factory jobs since 2009, reversing a decline that spans more than three decades, as local manufacturers rebuild their work forces after slashing them deeply at the beginning of the recession.
The coalition includes the active support and participation of local K-12 schools, BOCES, Jamestown Com-munity College and SUNY Fredonia. Plans are underway to develop training programs tailored to manufacturing and healthcare jobs now available and jobs expected to come open in the future. These training programs will be based on the research of Task Force Teams. Teams have been formed to gather information on economic/workforce assessment, the county's schools: grade K through grade 12, and programs offered by the county's post-secondary institutions.
The STEM Coalition's work is centered on the belief that constant efforts are needed to provide the technical and scientific training that will prepare students for today's and tomorrow's employment opportunities.
Commenting on the coalition, Jay Warren, Chair of the LED Committee, said, "We need to focus on the skill sets that employers need. The Education Coalition is in the early stage of doing that. We're proud to be a part of this effort. The Chautauqua County Education Coalition is a positive move that has great potential."
The LED Committee of the NCCF is dedicated to promoting economic development in the Northern Chautauqua region. Diane Hannum, Executive Direc-tor of the Northern Chau-tauqua Community Founda-tion, said, "Economic development is an important component of the Foundation's mission to take an active role in the betterment of the communities that we serve. We are proud to join the Education Coalition. We are working with the Coalition toward a common goal: To develop a system that combines the contributions of education, business, government and community agencies. Together, we can develop a job training system that meets the workforce needs of our employers, while preparing job seekers for meaningful employment."
The LED Committee serves as a catalyst for proactive economic policy development, and advocates for public and private investment of new enterprises and the creation of additional jobs. Providing outstanding training for our labor force is essential to business growth, particularly in industries that increasingly employ innovations in technology. STEM skills are increasingly required for success in the workplace.
The NCCF developed the LED Committee to augment county and regional economic development initiatives already in action. While targeted to the needs and potential of the Northern Chau-tauqua region, the Commit-tee's Strategic Plan is consistent with existing efforts, such as the award-winning Chau-tauqua County 20/20 Plan, Buffalo-Niagara Enterprise, and the Western NY Regional Economic Development Council's Strategic Plan.
The LED Committee seeks to provide private sector leadership in the creation and development of a community-based Economic Strategic Plan of Action for the Northern Chautauqua Region, by developing partnerships with the public, private and educational/civic sectors, defining economic assets, opportunities and challenges, developing strategies, and formulating policies.
As it strengthens its work with the STEM Education Coalition, the LED Committee's Strategic Plan continues to focus on the following: Support of the proposed Northern Chautauqua County regional water system; update of the Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan for Northern Chau-tauqua County's Lake Erie waterfront; and support of development of a Gateway Welcome Center at the NY/PA state line.
Anyone interested in learning more about the NCCF LED Committee can contact the NCCF offices at 716-366-4892, or John Jay Warren, Committee Chair, at 679-8654.